BC Offshore Oil Permits End

BC offshore oil is officially over and done as oil giant Chevron surrenders its last permits.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

BC offshore oil is officially over and done as oil giant Chevron surrenders its last permits. Photo by Olga Iacovlenco on Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 minutes

BC offshore oil is officially over and done as oil giant Chevron surrenders its last permits.

Environmental groups are celebrating a significant victory against BC offshore oil exploration after decades of advocacy, as Chevron Canada relinquished the last remaining oil and gas exploration permits off British Columbia’s coast. This move marks a turning point for the pristine Pacific waters and ecosystems they hold.

For years, the existence of BC offshore oil permits cast a shadow over environmental protection efforts. Originally issued in the late 1960s and early 1970s, they remained valid despite a federal moratorium on offshore oil and gas activity implemented in 1972. These grandfathered permits posed a constant threat to the delicate BC offshore marine environment, creating uncertainty for conservation plans.

The news of Chevron’s surrender of its last BC offshore oil permits was met with applause from environmental groups. “It’s great to hear,” said Jay Ritchlin, Western Director General of the David Suzuki Foundation. “I’ve been working on this coast for over 20 years and all that time, these permits have been a constant threat to one of the most amazing marine ecosystems on the planet.” With their removal, the environmental risks associated with potential oil spills and drilling disruptions are finally eliminated.

The fight against BC offshore oil permits wasn’t without its challenges. Ecojustice Canada, on behalf of the David Suzuki Foundation and World Wildlife Fund, filed a legal challenge in 2022 aiming to extinguish the permits within protected marine areas. The lawsuit argued that the indefinite extensions of these permits were unlawful. However, the legal challenge was discontinued last year as Chevron voluntarily decided to surrender its BC offshore oil licenses.

The federal government also played a key role in this success story. Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson emphasized the government’s clear stance against offshore oil and gas development. “We’ve made it pretty clear that we’re not interested in seeing oil and gas developments off our coast,” Wilkinson stated. He further acknowledged the crucial role of First Nations who consistently opposed potential exploration.

See also: Offshore Wind Powered Green Hydrogen Production.

Looking towards the future, Ritchlin expressed hope that this victory signifies a broader shift away from fossil fuels. “I think the writing hopefully is clearly on the wall … these are losing bets if we continue to extract and produce, ship and burn fossil fuels,” he said. The surrender of these permits also aligns with the federal government’s commitment to conserve 25% of Canada’s land and water by 2025, a crucial step towards environmental sustainability.

This development holds significant promise for the future of B.C.’s coast. The removal of the last of the BC offshore oil permits paves the way for the establishment of new marine protected areas, particularly in the ecologically rich Great Bear Sea region. These protected zones are championed by coastal First Nations, and their creation aligns with the $800 million federal funding initiative dedicated to Indigenous-led marine conservation projects.

“As a British Columbian, I’m very happy about the relinquishment of the permits,” Wilkinson said, highlighting the move’s reflection of public sentiment towards environmental protection. “It’s a big step forward,” he added. “It provides more certainty and clarity and is focused on helping us do what’s needed from an ocean protection and conservation perspective.”

While celebrating this victory, both environmental groups and the government acknowledge the ongoing need for collaboration. Establishing new marine protected areas requires careful planning and consultation with all stakeholders, especially Indigenous partners. “We need to ensure that we take time so that everybody’s comfortable, but we all feel the urgency,” Wilkinson remarked. “Not only because we have that 25 by 25 commitment, but also because it’s important we get them established in the context of trying to arrest the decline in biodiversity and help to ensure that our oceans are healthy going forward.”

The surrender of the final oil and gas permits marks a significant milestone for environmental protection efforts in British Columbia. It not only safeguards the sensitive marine ecosystems but also opens doors for collaborative initiatives led by First Nations. With continued commitment and cooperation, the future of B.C.’s breathtaking coastline appears brighter and healthier for generations to come.

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