04/22/2014 03:45 EDT | Updated 06/22/2014 05:59 EDT

Ottawa supports keeping drilling moratorium on Georges Bank off Nova Scotia

HALIFAX - Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver says Ottawa agrees with keeping in place a moratorium on oil and gas exploration on Georges Bank off the southwest coast of Nova Scotia.

The current federal-provincial moratorium on exploration on Georges Bank expires at the end of 2015 and Nova Scotia has been in talks with the federal government about creating matching legislation to extend it until the end of 2022.

Oliver, who left the Natural Resources portfolio last month, said Tuesday that Ottawa supports the moratorium and that position isn't expected to change.

"There's some technical issues about when we extend it, but there's nothing in our policy which suggests we want to see it opened up," he said after giving a speech to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.

"It's not something people should be concerned about."

Provincial Energy Minister Andrew Younger said the Liberal government will honour an all-party commitment to extend the moratorium.

Younger said he expects to work with federal Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford to enshrine the moratorium into law and isn't expecting any difficulties.

Georges Bank is home to some of the most productive and ecologically sensitive fishing grounds off the East Coast, and environmental groups have argued for a permanent drilling moratorium.