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NEWS: Arctic oil spill cleanup impossible (at least) one day in five

The Globe and Mail reports, “A newly released report commissioned by (the National Energy Board) has concluded that clean-up efforts for an offshore oil spill in the Arctic could be impossible at least one day in five because of bad weather or sea ice.”

The Council of Canadians is calling for a moratorium on oil and gas development in the Arctic.

“As part of its ongoing review of regulations that will eventually govern energy development in Canada’s North, the National Energy Board commissioned an environmental consultant (S.L. Ross Environmental Research) to study how typical spill clean-up methods would be affected by likely conditions in the Beaufort Sea and Davis Strait. Winds higher than 10 metres per second, for example, make it impossible to burn oil slicks, one of the main methods used to clean up ocean spills. Dispersants, which break up the slicks, are of little use in waves higher than three metres. Booms and skimmers, which contain and remove the oil, are only marginally effective in water that is more than 10 per cent ice-covered. Aircraft, essential to direct any clean-up operations, need at least a kilometre of visibility.”
The article highlights that, according to the World Wildlife Fund, even the ‘impossible to clean-up one day in five’ estimate may be overly optimistic.

While the National Energy Board is a regulatory body, it is a highly problematic one. In July 2010, the Globe and Mail reported that, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper is relying for advice on the National Energy Board, many of whose board members come straight from the energy sector. …There are no environmentalists or northern residents represented on the National Energy Board. …Several current NEB members worked in the industry before their appointments, or with Alberta provincial regulators that have green-lighted resource projects.” In August 2010, the Montreal Gazette reported, “Most of the (25) individuals appointed by the Harper government (since February 2006) to the agencies that oversee offshore-petroleum drilling in Canada are former industry insiders or government officials with no stated experience in environmental issues.” Last summer, the NDP demanded that the Harper government, “broaden the membership in the NEB for the purposes of its Arctic offshore review, to include representatives from all relevant federal and provincial bodies, the scientific community, First Nations, Inuit, Métis, industry, and environmental non-governmental organizations.”

The Council of Canadians is calling for a moratorium on oil and gas development in the Arctic. For more on our campaign to achieve this, please go to Blogs on the issue can be read at

The Globe and Mail report is at