Although the Nova Scotia government has announced an extension of a ban on oil and gas drilling in the Canadian sector of Georges Bank, a cornucopia of fish and seafood that Canada shares with the United States, government leaders say that no bill has yet been drafted to give the ban legal standing, according to an anti-drilling organization.
"We met with the premier of the province (Darrel Dexter) and two cabinet secretaries," said Denny Morrow, a leader of the NoRigs3 Coalition, which successfully lobbied the government earlier this year to pledge to extend the oil and gas drilling ban in the Canadian sector of Georges.
"We didn't get any comfort," said Morrow. "The premier was not aware of any legislation."
He said while legislation can be repealed or amended, a law has "moral force" shows greater commitment than a pledge, which so far is what the anti-drilling interests have been left with.
"All we have going on is announced intention," Morrow said.
The action on the Canadian side is considered pivotal to future U.S. activities in its much larger section of Georges, which is one of the North Atlantic's great ecological nurseries and richest producers of fin and shellfish.
Dexter acknowledged as much in announcing the decision to extend the moratorium for three years, but he also made clear that there are long-term possibilities for drilling and oil exploration on Georges. Although the United States has not authorized any off shore oil exploration or extraction in the Northwest Atlantic, Canada has been aggressive in approving drilling along the Maritime provinces.
Georges has been the off limits exception for Canada.
Canada's 10-year moratorium on drilling, which would have expired in 2012, was extended by proclamation in May through 2015.
Weeks earlier, President Obama announced an ambitious drilling plan for the U.S, but the president took waters north of New Jersey, including notably the shallow shelf of Georges, out of consideration.
The potential for oil drilling has long been a concern for Gloucester fishermen and backers of the New England industry.
In June, more than 300 people turned out on Gloucester's Good Harbor and Pavilion beaches to join in a national "Hands Across the Sand" demonstration calling to end all drilling for oil off U.S. shores.
The demonstration, which coincided with similar efforts at more than 800 beaches around the country, also segued with the city's annual St. Peter's Fiesta celebration of the fishing industry, was coordinated by Jane Berry of the Cape Ann Energy Network and Angela Sanfilippo of the Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association.
Sanfilippo noted at the time that the Fishermen's Wives organization had helped push successfully for the initial moratorium 30 years earlier, adding that "we want a moratorium forever" in U.S. waters.
In between the presidential drilling announcement and the decision by Dexter on behalf of the Nova Scotia government in a joint action with the federal government of Canada, BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling platform blew up, triggering the epic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and soiling of the Gulf Coast.
"We know that any decision on whether or not to lift the moratorium on Georges could have significant economic and environmental impacts on the province, the country and beyond," Dexter said last May in announcing the extension of the moratorium.
"We would want solid science and a full public review before making any decision to lift the moratorium," he continued. "I have heard the public's concerns, and I am confident that extending the moratorium will put people's minds at ease."
The Canadians previously conducted a review of the choices for Georges in 1999 before barring any exploration through 2012. Last spring was the deadline for extending the moratorium, or agreeing to consider options including a reversal of the policy that could authorize exploration.
NoRigs3 Coalition, based in Halifax, N.S., expressed disappointment that the extension did not match up with the 2017 expiration date for the US moratorium.
The NoRigs3 Coalition includes fishermen, processors, environmental organizations and aboriginal groups.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or email@example.com.