The governments of Nova Scotia and Canada will extend the moratorium on oil and gas exploration and drilling on Georges Bank to Dec. 31, 2015. “We know that any decision on whether or not to lift the moratorium on Georges Bank could have significant economic and environmental impacts on the province, the country, and beyond,” Premier Darrell Dexter said. “It is critical that government understands these impacts before such a decision is made. “We would want solid science and a full public review before making any decision to lift the moratorium. I have heard the public’s concerns and I am confident that extending the moratorium will put people’s minds at ease.” When the moratorium was first extended in 1999, the federal and provincial governments committed to try to work with U.S. agencies, as Georges Bank crosses international borders. The United States has also opted to ban oil and gas exploration on Georges Bank. Both levels of government also agreed to gather and develop information on the delicate Georges Bank ecosystem, particularly about fishing and petroleum activities and technologies. The research only began recently, and preliminary results suggest there will be more work to do. The three-year extension announced today, May 13, will allow this process to be completed, as critical research results are expected later this year. Government will then assess the findings and focus on filling research gaps. “We value and respect our ocean ecosystem,” said Energy Minister Bill Estabrooks. “We also value and respect the men and women who work there, in both the fishing and petroleum industries. In order to make the right decision, we need more time to get the best scientific information available.” “The government of Canada is committed to the responsible management of Canada’s offshore resources,” said Christian Paradis, Minister of Natural Resources Canada. “We will continue to work closely with the province of Nova Scotia on studies and decisions relating to Georges Bank.” Mr. Estabrooks said there may be important lessons to learn from the Gulf of Mexico drilling disaster. A preliminary review is researching potential environmental and socio-economic impacts of offshore petroleum activities on Georges Bank, if permitted. Another study is assessing technologies and practices in offshore exploration, drilling and production that have been developed since the 1999 Georges Bank review. Additional research is using modern software to reinterpret seismic information to better understand the resource potential. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is also conducting research.
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