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Council stands with Clyde River for a moratorium on seismic testing in the Arctic Ocean

Clyde River MapThe Council of Canadians is asking that you send a letter to the prime minister and the chair of the National Energy Board to demand an immediate moratorium on seismic testing and a ban on offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean. A consortium of three companies -TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company, Petroleum GeoServices and Multi Klient Invest – wants to conduct seismic testing for oil and gas in Baffin Bay and the Davis Strait as early as this spring or summer. The testing would take place near the community of Clyde River in Nunavut.

The people of this small hamlet have filed a legal challenge against this seismic testing and need your your help. CBC has reported, “[A] group that launched the federal court challenge will have to prove the National Energy Board didn’t do its job, failing to properly consult the people of Clyde River before approving the seismic testing projects. [Their lawyer] says the National Energy Board essentially rubber-stamped the application for seismic testing.” The lawyer is pushing for the case to be heard by the Federal Court of Appeal by March given the urgency of the situation.

Seismic testing uses air cannons to generate intense sound impulses underwater as often as every ten seconds. It can cause hearing loss and disrupt migration behaviour of marine animals like narwhals and the fish they feed on. Baffin Bay and the Davis Strait are home to more than 80 per cent of the world’s population of narwhals. Nunatsiaq Online reports, “Although the consortium has conducted an environmental assessment and is confident it can avoid impacts on the marine environment through the timing of the tests and with the help of marine animal spotters on their boats, they admit they cannot be sure.”

The next step after this seismic testing could be the extraction of this oil from the ocean floor. Imperial Oil Ltd, Exxon Mobil Corp. and BP PLC are already seeking regulatory approval to drill deep water wells in the Beaufort Sea about 175 kilometres northwest of Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. Their aim is to drill in waters up to 1,500 metres in depth by 2020. This past summer the National Energy Board began reviewing proposals that would allow these corporations not to drill a same season relief well to deal with an underwater blowout. An oil spill would devastate coastal communities in the North.

The US Geological Survey has estimated the Arctic region has 90 billion barrels of ‘technically recoverable’ oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Companies want to exploit this and the Harper government has been supportive. But researchers from University College London recently concluded that no country’s Arctic energy resources can be developed if global temperature increases are to be kept below 2 degrees Celsius. That same report argued that 85 per cent of the tar sands in Canada will have to be left in the ground.

Five years ago the Council of Canadians called on the governments of Canada, the United States, Russia, Greenland, Denmark and Norway to place a moratorium on offshore drilling in Arctic waters. Today we stand with the people of Clyde River and support their right to protect their lands, waters and wildlife.

To send your letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and National Energy Board chair Peter Watson, please click here.