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NEWS: Inuit meet in Ottawa on Arctic offshore drilling, Feb. 23-24

Nunatsiaq reports that, “Inuit from Canada, Alaska. Greenland and Russia (are meeting) in Ottawa at the Chateau Laurier hotel Feb. 23 to Feb. 24… Their task (is) to forge a common Inuit position on resource development in the Arctic. The Inuit Circumpolar Conference said the summit was called to respond to the Nuuk Declaration, adopted last June at the end of the ICC general assembly in Nuuk (Greenland). The Nuuk Declaration directed the ICC to address policy issues on resource development in the Arctic, including offshore drilling and exploration, mining, and environmental, economic, social and cultural impact assessment processes.”

CBC adds that, “Offshore oil and gas development and mining – especially uranium mining – are contentious issues in the Arctic, and Inuit leaders have disagreed on what should be allowed and what should not be allowed. …But Inuit living in Nunavut have said last year’s major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico should serve as a warning for proponents of oil and gas exploration in the Arctic. ‘After all, it was the environment and the animals that have taken us up to (the) 21st century,’ said Larry Audlaluk of Grise Fiord, Nunavut.”

The Globe and Mail reports today that, “The Inuit Premier of Greenland (Kuupik Kleist) is passionate in defending the need to develop his country’s oil and gas potential – a stance that puts him at odds with Canadian Inuit groups, which have tried to block offshore drilling near their communities.”

The Globe and Mail reported last May that, “A spill in the region – even a minor one – would be catastrophic. Dozens of Canadian towns along iceberg alley in Nunavut and Labrador would be coated, their paltry defences overwhelmed. Some Canadian politicians and environmentalists are warning that Greenland’s ambitious Arctic drilling program is moving too quickly and too haphazardly to be safe. Heavy ice conditions can devastate rig operations, and any response to spills must be done with limited resources in a limited time frame.” If a relief well isn’t drilled in the same season, oil could “spew beneath the ice, all over the Arctic, for months and months. Greenland requires only that operators demonstrate they can start drilling a relief well before the winter freeze-up, but not that they can complete it.”

The Council of Canadians believes that the devastating BP spill off the Gulf of Mexico has awakened our collective consciousness to the serious risks of offshore drilling. Images of oil soaked wetlands, dying birds and animals and firsthand accounts of jobs and livelihoods lost are just the start of what will be long-lasting impacts of this environmental catastrophe. With the discovery of 90 billion barrels of oil and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas under melting ice, the Arctic is increasingly being viewed as a final frontier for fossil fuel development.  More than 80 per cent of the oil and gas is found offshore. To read more, please go to http://canadians.org/arctic.

The news article are at http://www.nunatsiaqonline.ca/stories/article/108758_icc_set_to_meet_on_resource_development/, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/story/2011/02/23/inuit-council-resource-summit.html, and http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/greenlands-inuit-premier-defends-oil-and-gas-drilling/article1918276/.