Environment minister sued by group he co-founded following Bay du Nord approval

Équiterre, co-founded by Steven Guilbeault in 1993, and the Sierra Club Canada are suing on the grounds that the oil project’s approval “runs counter to Canada’s international obligations.”

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Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault is being sued by the environmental group he co-founded after Ottawa approved the Bay du Nord oil project, which will operate off the Labrador and Newfoundland coast.

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Équiterre, co-founded by Guilbeault in 1993, and the Sierra Club Canada are suing the minister on the grounds that the Bay du Nord approval “runs counter to Canada’s international obligations and the urgent call to reduce global emissions as the reality of the climate emergency grows ever more alarming with each severe weather event.”

The lawsuit was filed in Federal Court on Friday.

In a communiqué made public Wednesday morning, the environmental groups note that Guilbeault approved the Bay du Nord project just a few days after an expert panel on climate change issued its report and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres described any new investment in the fossil fuel sector as “moral and economic madness.”

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The Bay du Nord project is a collaboration between Norwegian multinational Equinor and Husky Energy of Canada to exploit a deepwater oil field, a first in the country. While Equinor originally estimated the project could generate 300 million barrels of oil, that estimate has since been tripled.

Équiterre and Sierra Club Canada denounced the “massive downstream emissions this project will generate” even if Bay du Nord’s approval was subject to 137 conditions, including one that it generates zero greenhouse gas emissions before 2050.

“The rhetoric of industry and government that ‘clean oil’ can be produced ignores that the process of extraction of oil represents just 10 per cent of an oil project’s emissions. The remaining 90 per cent come from the combustion of oil,” the groups write in their complaint.

The two groups note that “over 30 years between 300 million and one billion barrels could be produced by the floating platform,” which is “the equivalent of (greenhouse gas emissions from) an additional seven to 10 million cars a year.”

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