WWF-Canada, represented by Ecojustice lawyers, is taking legal action against oil major Shell in what it describes as an effort “to quash Arctic oil and gas exploration permits that continue to obstruct conservation efforts in Lancaster Sound, Nunavut.”
The lawsuit argues that Shell Canada’s permits for offshore oil and gas exploration in Lancaster Sound – issued more than 40 years ago – are expired and therefore invalid, despite the fact that the federal registrar has refused to delist the permits.
WWF-Canada is asking the court to confirm the expiry of the Shell oil and gas exploration permits on the border of the proposed Lancaster Sound National Marine Conservation Area and to order an update of registry records under the Canada Petroleum Resources Act to indicate the expiry of those permits.
“Sensitive Arctic ecosystems already face pressure from melting ice and increasing development. We need to ensure quality protections for regions with the most biodiverse and vulnerable ecosystems, such as Lancaster Sound,” David Miller, WWF-Canada president and CEO, said.
“The federal government must take active steps to protect the Arctic ecosystem from dangerous, disruptive fossil fuel exploration instead of standing on the sidelines. Under the law, exploration permits do not stay valid forever, and it’s time the government recognize that Shell’s permits are well past their expiration date,” adds Ian Miron, Ecojustice lawyer.
Lancaster Sound is described as one of the richest marine mammal areas on earth and is home to narwhals, belugas, bowhead whales, ringed seals, harp seals and walruses. The area also harbours one of the highest densities of polar bears in the Canadian Arctic and provides important breeding and feeding habitat for seabirds, including thick-billed murres, black-legged kittiwakes, ivory gulls and northern fulmars, WWF-Canada points out.