Vol. 150, No. 5 — March 9, 2016
SI/2016-15 March 9, 2016
GEORGES BANK PROTECTION ACT
Order Fixing the Day after the Day on which this Order is made as the Day on which the Act Comes into Force
P.C. 2016-94 February 26, 2016
His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Natural Resources, pursuant to section 4 of the Georges Bank Protection Act, chapter 39 of the Statutes of Canada, 2015, fixes the day after the day on which this Order is made as the day on which that Act comes into force.
(This note is not part of the Order.)
This Order in Council, made pursuant to section 4 of the Georges Bank Protection Act (the Act), which received royal assent on June 23, 2015, fixes the day after the day on which this Order is made as the day on which the Act comes into force.
The objective of this Order is to bring into force the Act, which amends the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act (the Accord Act) in order to re-establish a statutory moratorium on oil and gas activity in Georges Bank.
Georges Bank is a large, shallow bank of more than 40 000 km2 on the outer continental shelf of eastern North America. The Bank lies partly in Canadian waters and partly in U.S. waters. Canada’s portion of the Bank is approximately 7 000 km2 of the Canada–Nova Scotia offshore area and is located 100 km offshore the south shore region of Nova Scotia.
Georges Bank is a significant marine ecosystem that, on account of its high phytoplankton production, provides habitat to a wide range of fish, including swordfish, tuna, herring, and mackerel; marine mammals, including the endangered right whale; crustaceans, including clams, lobster, and deep sea scallops; and corals. Further, it supports important commercial fisheries, including cod, haddock, pollock, and yellowtail flounder. In 2014, the Canadian Georges Bank commercial fishery was valued at $141.4 million.
A statutory moratorium on oil and gas activity in the portion of Georges Bank that lies in the Canada–Nova Scotia offshore area was put in place through the Accord Act from 1988 to 2012, when the provisions expired. Since then, Canada and Nova Scotia have continued to keep in place a joint policy-based moratorium to protect this important ecosystem. This policy-based moratorium expired on December 31, 2015.
The Act provides the Minister of Natural Resources and the provincial Minister with the authority to re-establish a moratorium until 2022 through the joint issuance of a written notice. It also establishes a mechanism to renew the moratorium, for additional periods of no more than 10 years each, through a joint written notice published in the Canada Gazette.
The Act also makes a corresponding amendment to section 104 of the Accord Act to specify that permit holders with exploration permits in the Georges Bank moratorium area are exempt from having to make payments to the Environmental Studies Research Fund (the Fund) while there is a moratorium in place.
The Fund is an account established under the authority of the Minister of Natural Resources to fund environmental and social studies pertaining to the manner in which exploration, development and production activities should be conducted. As the exploration permit holders in the moratorium area are not permitted to conduct exploration, development and production activities, they are exempt from having to make payments to this Fund.
The initial moratorium period extends to 2022 to ensure alignment with Nova Scotia’s stated position that the moratorium should extend to 2022 and the U.S.’s current policy. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, within the U.S. Department of the Interior, has indicated in its five-year plan, from 2017–2022, that there will be no oil and gas activity in the U.S. portion of Georges Bank. It is important that Canada and the United States have a consistent approach since the area of Georges Bank is shared between Canadian and U.S. waters.
There will be no additional costs involved with bringing these provisions of the Act into force as a result of this Order.
Multiple stakeholders (e.g. Norigs 3, a coalition of fishery associations; environmental non-governmental organizations; and First Nations) had requested, in letters to the Minister of Natural Resources, as well as local members of Parliament, that the federal and provincial governments re-establish a statutory moratorium for Georges Bank before the expiry of the existing policy-based moratorium. The Government of Nova Scotia is supportive of this measure.
The Government of Canada has collaborated extensively with the Government of Nova Scotia in the development of the Act. It also consulted the permit holders with exploration permits in the Georges Bank moratorium area, and corresponded with Norigs 3 on the protection of this productive ecosystem.
For additional information, please contact
Offshore Petroleum Management Division
Natural Resources Canada
580 Booth St.