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ACTION ALERT: Demand a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic

The Canwest News Service reports that, “Next week, the House of Commons natural-resources committee will begin hearings into whether the country’s laws and regulations are tough enough to prevent a disaster on the scale of the Gulf Coast spill.”

There are currently three oil rigs off the coast of Newfoundland (the Hibernia, Terra Nova and White Rose platforms) and natural gas projects offshore of Nova Scotia.

And increasingly worrisome is the energy ‘gold rush’ expected in the Arctic given the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there are 90 billion barrels of oil and almost 2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Arctic region. Much of this energy would need to be drilled underwater.

In recent years, Imperial Oil  and BP have paid a combined $1.8 billion for exploration licences in the Arctic. The CBC recently reported that, “(Federal NDP leader Jack) Layton cited British Petroleum’s recent acquisition of three licenses in the Beaufort Sea for more than 6,000 square kilometres of drilling rights and said the company was trying to weaken the environmental requirements for drilling in the region.”

On March 25, the Council of Canadians, the Indigenous Environmental Network and the REDOIL Network issued an open letter to the foreign ministers of Canada, the United States, Denmark, Norway and Russia just prior to their Arctic Summit in Chelsea, Quebec.

That letter urged them to pursue a moratorium on all new exploration for fossil fuel resources in the Arctic region.

Conservative MP David Anderson (the parliamentary secretary to Natural Resources minister Christian Paradis) says, “I don’t think it’s necessarily a good time to call for a moratorium. There are no authorizations for drilling in the deeper Beaufort ocean, so it’s not an issue of whether we have rigs there or not, or whether we’re drilling or not.”

NDP MP Nathan Cullen says, “We have serious concerns about the lack of rules in a Canadian context, and the lack of capacity to respond to a major spill, particularly in the Arctic.”

Cullen adds, “The question of whether you can even drill safely or not is now put in front of Canadians and this is the most serious question we can deal with. Because imagine a spill like this on Canada’s West Coast, or the north end of the country in the Beaufort Sea. It would just be an unmitigated disaster.”

Liberal environment and energy critic David McGuinty is also concerned about the risks of Arctic drilling and supported the call for hearings.

McGuinty says, “I think we should be looking now at taking a time out and examining what the state of the technology is. What the risk is here and making sure that before we go any further with licensing, we also have to change the environmental assessment.”

Not surprisingly, the oil and gas industry disagrees with the concerns. As noted in the Canwest News Service report, a spokesperson for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has threatened that plans by oil companies to develop the Beaufort could be shelved if the government overreacts based on concerns about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the Parliament of Canada website, the Natural Resources committee next meets on Tuesday May 11 starting at 9:00 am.

So please contact your Member of Parliament as soon as possible and express your concern about the environmental destruction that is likely to occur with oil and gas drilling in the Arctic.

Tell them that you support a moratorium and that the government should be promoting the transition away from fossil fuels to publicly-owned renewable energy.

Given the imperative to reduce the world’s carbon emissions, we should not be allowing transnational corporations like Imperial Oil and BP to extract carbon-emitting oil and gas from the Arctic. Our message has been – leave it in the ground.

To see the membership of the Natural Resources committee – and in particular to take note if your MP sits on this committee – please go to

Our letter to the ministers calling for a moratorium is at

The Canwest News Service article is at