The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board has the responsibility to ensure that offshore oil and gas industrial activities proceed in an environmentally acceptable manner. The Environmental Affairs department of the Board plays a key role in carrying out this mandate by evaluating the effect of the offshore environment upon the safety of offshore activities and by ensuring protection of the environment during the conduct of these activities.
Working in close consultation with the C-NLOPB’s Operations and Safety department, Environmental Affairs assesses the potential effects of environmental conditions (such as winds, waves and ice conditions) in the Newfoundland offshore area upon the safety of operations that are proposed for that area and of the facilities that are proposed to do the work.
The two departments also work closely together in reviewing operational procedures such as ice management plans, and in monitoring the conduct of offshore operations that are in progress. In addition, Environmental Affairs reviews operators’ plans for collecting the weather, oceanographic and ice data that they are required to measure at offshore drilling and production sites.
The Board reviews proposals for all physical activities offshore — from seismic surveys to production projects — to identify their potential effects upon the natural environment or upon other users of that environment (such as the fishery). It also evaluates measures that are proposed to prevent or mitigate these effects. This activity includes reviewing operators’ contingency plans for environmental emergencies –especially oil spills– to ensure that adequate response measures, people and equipment are in place in the event of an accident.
In all these reviews, the Board’s Environmental Affairs department also consults with a number of environmental advisory agencies in the federal and provincial governments, and occasionally in other Canadian or international jurisdictions. In the case of large projects, it also helps to design and implement the process through which the public may participate in the review.
The Board also reviews, and monitors the operation of, the “nuts and bolts” of environmental management offshore — the systems and procedures that make environmental protection happen in an offshore operation. The number and complexity of these may vary depending on the scale of the project or activity itself. For a production project, they include:
The C-NLOPB’s Environmental Affairs department acts as a source of information on any or all of the above matters for the general public, government agencies, and industry, and provides advice on behalf of the Board to government and industry bodies that conduct environmental research and development relating to the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore area.