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Court rejects appeal of seismic testing approval
Clyde River mayor and supporters to take issue to Supreme Court

Stewart Burnett
Northern News Services
Monday, August 24, 2015

The Federal Court of Appeal ruled against Clyde River in its attempt for a judiciary review of the National Energy Board's approval of industry plans to perform seismic testing off the hamlet's coast.

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Clyde River Mayor Jerry Natanine, pictured here speaking to media on April 20 in Toronto, is "totally disappointed" that the Federal Court of Appeal rejected an attempt for a judicial review and that he intends to take efforts to prevent seismic testing to the Supreme Court. - Jessica Wilson/Greenpeace photo

"Totally disappointed," were the first words out of Clyde River Mayor Jerry Natanine's mouth when asked for his response to the decision minutes after its release.

"But we were kind of expecting that."

He said the hamlet and the hunters and trappers organization are studying the ruling and plan to appeal it and take it to the Supreme Court.

Natanine said he expected the court's ruling because the Conservative Party is in power.

"The attitude that they've had over the years, being the government of Canada, the regulation that they've abolished and just the type of government that we've been having, very pro on oil extraction," said Natanine.

Last summer, the energy board approved plans for seismic testing over a five-year period by a group of three companies in the Davis Strait. The testing would use high-intensity sounds to map the seafloor.

The hamlet of Clyde River, hunters and trappers and global anti-oil organizations such as Greenpeace protested the decision in fear of potential danger to marine creatures and saying Inuit rights were not considered strongly enough.

Justice Eleanor Dawson, in her ruling released last week, said she was satisfied with the energy board's consultation with Inuit communities and organizations, noting that consultation does not equal veto power.

"The proponents changed aspects of the project's design as a result of the consultation process," stated Dawson. "Certain survey lines were shortened in order to stop the survey process farther away from the shore and/or the border between the ocean and sea ice in direct response to community concerns."

The energy board's report demonstrated that aboriginal concerns were considered and showed how they were taken into account, she stated.

Dawson also noted that Clyde River and the hunters and trappers organization refused to participate in the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit study conducted by NEXUS Coastal on the proponents' behalf, calling it "not helpful, or consistent with reciprocal, good-faith consultation."

She wrote that Inuit would still have opportunities to be involved in the project and express concerns as it progresses through later stages.

In response to a claim by Clyde River that the energy board "cherry picked" scientific articles that found seismic testing to be low risk to sea life, Dawson stated that she saw no merit in that claim.

"There was an extensive evidentiary record before the board," stated Dawson. "The applicants have not pointed to any finding made by the board that was not supported by any evidence. The applicants have not established that the evidentiary record before the board was in any way flawed."

A page on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans website concerning seismic testing's impact on whales and fish referred to two studies that found it did not have a significant negative impact.

In a study off Halifax, researchers found no significant changes in the general distribution of Gully whales during seismic exploration.

"It's not that we've ruled out all effects," Kenneth Lee, head of the Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research, is quoted as saying. "But we've seen no evidence of the most-feared results, such as abandonment of the area."

Last year, the Obama administration pushed forward seismic testing off the U.S. Atlantic coast and issued an environmental review that stated air-gun blasts would have a "moderate" impact on marine mammals.

Other organizations, such as Greenpeace and WWF Canada, have spread fear that the sound blasts could harm marine creatures and, in turn, harm the Inuit way of life.

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association followed up the ruling with a statement that the organization continues to back the hamlet of Clyde River and the local hunters and trappers organization.

"The NEB decision of June 2014 to permit seismic surveying effectively denies Inuit of our right to meaningful consultation prior to such activity being undertaken," states the release.

QIA will continue to collect IQ from Inuit to establish an Inuit-developed IQ baseline to assist Inuit in challenging any proposed industry activity that ignores or does not properly include IQ in project design.

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