Major Overhaul Needed of Standards for Arctic Drilling: Study

Publication: The Vancouver Sun

Author: Randy Boswell


09/09/2011 - A leading Arctic environmental group says it has identified "critical weaknesses" in Canada's regulatory system for approving potential offshore oil projects in the North, including "ambiguity" regarding standards to prevent the kind of catastrophic blowout that struck the Gulf of Mexico last year.

In a report released Friday and in an accompanying letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Oceans North Canada — an arm of the U.S.-based Pew Environment Group — warned that "Canada will only get one chance to get Arctic deepwater oil and gas right and today stands at a critical juncture in the history of the region."

Oceans North wants the National Energy Board, Canada's independent regulator for oil and gas projects, to prevent any further movement on possible projects or even any leasing activity by Canadian governments until a major overhaul is completed on safety regulations, standards for public consultations and royalty-sharing rules.

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But Oceans North Canada policy director Trevor Taylor — a former Newfoundland cabinet minister for transportation, fisheries and aboriginal affairs — told Postmedia News that the federal government and National Energy Board should agree to prevent "any movement forward" on offshore oil and gas prospecting in the Arctic until Canada adopts a world-leading safety regime, including requirements to ensure that companies wishing to bid to lease blocks of Arctic seabed for potential petroleum development have the willingness and capacity to first conduct exhaustive environmental reviews.

That regime, argues the ONC report titled "Becoming Arctic-Ready," must include a clear commitment to a "same-season relief well policy" — a regulatory requirement aimed at ensuring any offshore firm could promptly complete a backup well in the event of an offshore blowout and halt an environmental disaster.

Read the full article, Major Overhaul Needed of Standards for Arctic Drilling: Study, on The Vancouver Sun's Web site.

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