Strategic environmental assessment roles and stakes in Arctic oil and gas exploration and development

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Tags: environmental assessment, social sciences, petroleum industry

Principal Investigator: Noble, Bram F (5)
Licence Number: 14664
Organization: University of Saskatchewan
Licensed Year(s): 2011 2010
Issued: Mar 05, 2010
Project Team: Skye Ketilsen (Graduate Student Researcher, University of Saskatchewan), Courtney Fidler (Graduate Student Researcher, University of Saskatchewan), Stephen Higham (Graduate Student Researcher, University of Saskatchewan)

Objective(s): To understand how Arctic oil and gas development is regulated, and the challenges to the current environmental assessment system and to provide guidance for the development of a meaningful regional and strategic environmental assessment system.

Project Description: This research explores the different roles and expectations of regional and strategic environmental assessment (SEA) for energy development in the Beaufort Sea-Mackenzie Delta region. The objectives are to: (1) Understand how Arctic oil and gas development is regulated, and the challenges to the current environmental assessment system. (2) Identify the different understandings and expectations about regional and strategic environmental assessment for Arctic oil and gas. (3) Reach a common understanding of regional and strategic environmental assessment in the Arctic energy sector. (4) Provide guidance for the development of a meaningful regional and strategic environmental assessment system.

Research participants will be members of organizations and industries involved in, or affected by, the management and development of oil and gas in the Beaufort Sea-Mackenzie Delta. This includes:

i) Northern boards and agencies that are part of the Beaufort Sea Regional Partnership, and with a stake in development in the region, including community councils, Inuvialuit Game Council, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Inuvialuit Petroleum Corporation, and other members of the Inuvialuit Joint Secretariat including the Environmental Impact Screening Committee, Environmental Impact Review Board, and Fisheries Joint Management Committee.
ii) Northern and federal government departments involved in the management of Arctic oil and gas, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada, National Energy Board, Indian and Northern Affairs, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Inuvialuit Environmental Impact Review Board, and the Government of the Northwest Territories.
iii) Arctic oil and gas industries (e.g. Shell, Imperial Oil, Exxon, ConocoPhillips, Devon Canada Corp.), and representatives from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
iv) Other industry stakeholders, including the Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Co-op, IEG-GeoNorth, Terriplan Consultants, Pembina Institute, Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, and various research scientists.

A. Interviews
First, there will be interviews with government and industry representatives to understand the regulatory system for Arctic oil and gas impact assessment, including views about challenges to the current system. Approximately 20 to 25 interviews are planned. Second, there will be interviews with northern community boards, government departments and agencies, industry, and other industry stakeholders (e.g. research groups, ENGOs) involved in and affected by Arctic oil and gas development. Interviews will attempt to identify the range of understandings and expectations of the roles and opportunities for SEA in Arctic oil and gas. Approximately 40 to 50 interviews are planned to capture the range of local and regional interests.

The graduate student(s) or the lead researcher will contact all participants. The participant will then be sent an invitation that will contain information about the project and copies of the interview questions and consent form. Interviews with members of the northern communities/ boards will be face-to-face. Interviews are expected to last 1 to 1 ½ hours and will be audio taped, at the consent of the participant. Protocols for interview recording, data storage, and confidentiality are included in the ethics review with this application.

B. Focus Groups
Interview results will be combined and a short report will be produced. This report will form the basis of discussion for the focus groups. There will be three focus groups, each with 10 to 12 participants, plus the researchers. The focus groups will be held in Inuvik (participants will include northern government and regulatory bodies and representatives of the Joint Secretariat); Ottawa (federal regulators); and Calgary (Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and industry). Some people may have participated in interviews. Participants will receive the report at least two weeks before the focus group. Focus groups will be recorded, with the consent of the participants.

The research will bring together the views of northern boards, governments, and industry to develop a common understanding and set of expectations about regional and strategic environmental assessment for Arctic oil and gas. This research will directly involve members of Northern community boards and agencies that are part of the Beaufort Sea Regional Partnership, and with a stake in oil and gas development in the Beaufort region. Local involvement and knowledge sharing are central to this research and will occur through: (1) Interviews to explore local views and expectations about environmental assessment and what it is that regional and strategic environmental assessment should be doing in terms of environmental protection, economic development, and community benefits. (2) A focus group will be held in Inuvik with members from the above community organizations to review and discuss the results of the research, and to explore the challenges to and opportunities for regional and strategic environmental assessment in the Beaufort region. The goal is that this research will be the ‘first chapter’ on regional and strategic environmental assessment in Canada’s Arctic, and help set a foundation for its future development.


1. Results will be communicated directly through the focus group and in a non-technical summary report, with technical and detailed reports and publications made available on the researcher's web site.
2. Results will be presented in academic journals (e.g. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, Arctic), and at conferences. These will be shared with participants and made available on the researcher's website.
3. Results will be part of an Environmental Assessment course being developed for the University of the Arctic as part of a distance-learning program. The course will be offered throughout the global North.
4. The researcher has budgeted to present the final results in person, based on invitation, to the northern community. Arrangements will be made with the research partners to present the results in Inuvik .
5. The longer-term goal is to apply for funding for an international workshop that brings together the northern community boards, academics, regulators, and industry to learn from experiences and to identify a common agenda for SEA for energy planning and development.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from March, 2010 to December 31, 2010.