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Just the Facts: Reckless Conservative offshore drilling

Posted on May 11, 2010

The Harper Conservatives have left Canada’s coasts vulnerable to an offshore oil spill disaster. Given the ecological tragedy currently unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, the Liberals are calling on the government to uphold the moratorium on offshore drilling off the coast of BC and put in place a moratorium on further leases in the Arctic pending a complete examination of the risks related to petroleum activity in the North.  Liberals are also calling on the government to put an offshore oil spill plan in place and ensure the very best emergency and safety measures are part of the cost of doing business. Consider these troubling facts:

•    The MacKenzie Valley Joint Review Panel’s report on emergency preparedness in the Beaufort Sea recommended that, within one year, the government of Canada should publish a plan demonstrating that transport Canada has adequate capacity in place to ensure that spills and accidents are appropriately prevented, detected and remediated.  In other words, Canada currently has no such plan.  One year after the recommendation was made, no such plan is in place.

•    The Harper Conservatives’ only plan is to rely on the “technology, equipment and training” of the companies doing the drilling.  Yet if a spill were to occur at the site of Chevron’s new oil rig off the shore of Newfoundland, it would take 11 days to get a ship to the site. Currently, only 10 percent of the oil spilled in an offshore disaster is actually recovered.

•   Changes to the Drilling and Production Regulations made by the Conservatives in December 2009 shifted the government’s role of prescribing how companies must operate and manage safety and environmental protection onto the responsibility of the companies.  While the companies are now left to determine how to manage spill response and other emergency measures, government must now only consider these risks when initially reviewing drilling applications for approval.

•    There is no technology in place to clean up an oil spill under Arctic ice.  Two years ago, the Conservatives accelerated the approval of leases for exploration by BP and Imperial Oil in the Beaufort sea, despite the fact that it would be impossible to protect this fragile ecological zone if there was ever a spill because of the icy water.

•    The Conservatives are now forging ahead with oil exploration plans in Lancaster Sound, an area described by Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq as “teeming with wildlife,” only months after Minister Prentice’s December 2009 announcement that he would make it a National Marine Conservation Area.

•    Drilling will proceed this summer in Greenland waters adjacent to Canadian waters – in a region under constant threat of ice floes – by a company with no history of drilling in the Arctic, yet the Conservatives have taken no steps to ensure that the government of Greenland will act urgently on any spills and take all liability in the event of an ecological disaster.

•    Since 1972, a Liberal moratorium on inland oil tanker traffic has kept BC’s coast safe.  While the Liberal Party remains committed to this moratorium, the Conservative government has never acknowledged it, and is willing to put Canada’s vulnerable coastal ecosystem at risk by supporting oil and gas development that will require tanker traffic in our north coast inland waters.

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