Arctic Offshore Oil and Gas Development: Advancing the Efficacy of Environmental Management through Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment
Planning for offshore hydrocarbon development in Canada’s Beaufort Sea currently occurs on a project-by-project basis. This is despite a collective understanding that impact assessment should go beyond the evaluation of site-specific project impacts to consider the broader policy and regional planning context in which development projects operate. The need for such a regional and strategic approach to impact assessment in Canada’s Beaufort Sea, known as regional strategic environmental assessment (R-SEA), arises from the looming large-scale offshore hydrocarbon development in the region and the lack of a mechanism to plan for future energy development, establish a long-term regional vision, or assess and effectively manage the potential cumulative environmental and social effects arising from development. At such a critical moment, little research exists to advance R-SEA from a concept to an applied planning, assessment and decision-support process. This dissertation draws on experience from the implementation of strategic environmental assessment in offshore jurisdictions internationally, along with existing initiatives for marine planning in the Beaufort Sea, to advance effective R-SEA implementation in the region. The research methodology includes a literature review, case reviews and key informant interviews. The research results are reported in three manuscripts. The first manuscript examines the influence of R-SEA on planning and development decisions in Norway, Atlantic Canada and the UK. The second manuscript examines existing planning, assessment, and science initiatives in the Beaufort Sea. The third manuscript identifies key opportunities for, and challenges to, the implementation of R-SEA in the Beaufort Sea. Significant findings demonstrate that R-SEA can offer a much-needed framework to accommodate and address stakeholder issues and concerns regarding future offshore development in the Beaufort Sea, despite acute implementation challenges, such as scepticism of scenario-based planning. Key findings reveal many expectations of what R-SEA could deliver in the Beaufort Sea, a result of the varied stakeholder priorities and goals. Understanding the root of different expectations and perceptions, ensuring follow-up programs pay attention to horizontal linkages between R-SEA strategies and current marine planning initiatives, and that supporting institutional arrangements are in place for a preferred strategy to succeed lie at the core of advancing R-SEA as a viable tool in the Arctic.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
DepartmentGeography and Planning
SupervisorNoble, Bram F.
CommitteeAitken, Alec; Natcher, David; Poelzer, Greg; Hackett, Paul
Copyright DateFebruary 2013
regional strategic environmental assessment