On Friday, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey played down back-to-back setbacks in the offshore oil industry involving the federal government.
During an announcement about a plan to electrify Memorial University’s oil-fired heating system, Furey tried to allay fears about the future of the oil industry, which is a key employer and driver of the economy. provincial economy.
Earlier this month, the Trudeau government delayed a final decision on the controversial Bay du Nord megaproject. This week it delayed an offshore exploration tender.
“I fully appreciate the anxiety this is causing, not just in the industry, but especially for the families who are affected and who work in the industry,” Furey said in response to a question from CBC News.
“I’m optimistic that we can get to a good place.”
Furey said people shouldn’t read too much into the delay in offshore exploration bids, echoing Thursday’s statement from federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.
The Premier also reiterated his support for Bay du Nord, which, if approved, would become Newfoundland and Labrador’s fifth producing field and the first to push offshore oil development into the deep waters of the Flemish Pass, about 500 kilometers east of St. John’s.
Norwegian oil giant Equinor and its partners plan to use a floating production, storage and offloading vessel, commonly known as an FPSO, capable of producing up to 200,000 barrels per day.
Environmentalists pushed for the federal government not to open another border in Newfoundland and Labrador’s oil industry, and for Furey to shift Newfoundland and Labrador’s economic priorities to other industries.
Furey said oil produced by the province – including from Bay du Nord – could fill supply gaps caused by boycotts sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Newfoundland and Labrador has an important role to play, as does Canada,” he said.
Russia invaded Ukraine in February. If approved, it would take Equinor years to bring Bay du Nord into production.
Bay du Nord needed for transition: Furey
Furey also said Bay du Nord has a role to play in the transition to renewable energy, noting that the oil produced by the province is relatively low-carbon, a point climate experts have criticized.
“I think it’s imperative that we really look to the federal government to make sure this gets approved,” he said.
The provincial government, the opposition and the local oil industry have strongly supported the project, although it has drawn the ire of some environmental groups.
In a statement Friday, Sierra Club spokeswoman Heather Elliott said it was “impossible” to substantiate.
“Scientists have warned that new oil production is incompatible with climate goals and this project is not part of a just transition,” Elliott said.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has called on governments to stop using fossil fuels.
O’Regan still silent on Bay du Nord support
Bay du Nord would have been controversial within Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, according to Radio-Canada, which reported in February that several Liberal ministers from Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia wanted to reject the project.
The final decision on the project rests with federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and is due April 13.
While speaking with reporters Friday at the same event at Memorial University, federal Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan again declined to say whether he supported Bay du Nord, citing cabinet confidentiality.
He said the decision on the fate of the project is “very much alive” for the federal government.
“On the offshore issue, I think, to be honest, my credibility is pretty good,” O’Regan said.
“From the federal point of view, what we are doing now is trying to take care of the workers and reposition [the offshore oil industry] to reduce emissions.
While O’Regan remained coy about the future of Bay du Nord, he said oil industry workers would be needed for a transition to renewable energy.
“We need them to stay in this industry so we can effectively reduce emissions,” he said.
O’Regan said the federal government’s emissions reduction plan, due next week, will contain more information on how it plans to achieve net zero emissions.