OTTAWA — Oil and gas regulators in Newfoundland have done exactly what the federal environment commissioner told them not to do.They have issued a call for bids to explore parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence several months before a key environmental assessment ends.The commissioner, who audits government operations for their environmental performance, warned the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board last year to make sure strategic environmental assessments wrapped up before offering up parcels of the land beneath the sea.That way, companies would be fully aware of the measures they would need to undertake in order to properly protect the environment while exploring and drilling in marine habitat.A spokesman for the board defends the decision to tap business interest early, says the deadline for bids is not until four months after the environmental assessment is published.He says that allows plenty of time for companies to incorporate proper plans to protect marine life. read more