Section 5: Discharges from Onshore and Offshore Facilities, including offshore and directional drilling (Annex 8)
Considerable public controversy has arisen over potential
environmental risks from U.S. and Canadian offshore and directional oil and
natural gas drilling in the Great Lakes. To date, there have been few
reported problems. However, this matter does relate to Annex 8 of the
Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. (In the U.S., Congress has
authorized a comprehensive U.S. review of oil and gas drilling practices in
the Great Lakes basin.)
Annex 8 includes definitions and principles as well as programs and measures to prevent discharges of oil and other substances into the Great Lakes system from drill rigs, pipelines, wells and other on or offshore facilities.
Canadian Federal Government
Generally speaking, drilling in the Great Lakes falls within provincial jurisdiction.
U.S. Federal Government
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a 1982 joint report concluded that the development of natural gas from beneath the U.S. portion of Lake Erie can be done safely as long as current regulations governing the activity are strictly followed.
In November 2001, however, President Bush signed into law a two-year ban on any new drilling operations in the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes. The law also calls for a comprehensive study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on all potential environmental impacts that drilling operations could have on the Great Lakes. This study has not yet been funded.
Actions taken by state and provincial governments with respect to drilling are shown in the table below.
The International Association of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Mayors passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on Great Lakes oil and gas exploration, development and extraction.
The Chippewa Ottawa Resources Authority passed a resolution stating its unqualified opposition to any oil drilling activities to exploit oil deposits under the Great Lakes.