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NEWS: MPs may hold emergency debate on Arctic drilling issues

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.

The US Geological Survey has estimated that there is 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.

This issue is in the media again following the explosion of the British Petroleum oil rig ‘Deepwater Horizon’ on April 20 and the subsequent catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Globe and Mail reports today that, “Federal NDP leader Jack Layton said his party will press this week for emergency hearings before the Commons Natural Resources committee to explore what should be done to toughen rules and practices governing petroleum activity in the North. …The NDP leader says he wants BP executives to appear before MPs as well.”

“Liberal environment and energy critic David McGuinty, who has been raising concerns about the risks of Arctic drilling, says he’d also like to see Parliament tackle the matter.”

There is concern because, “current federal rules in Canada require energy companies to complete a ‘relief well’, a drilling technique that helps to stop oil leaks… (But) starting last fall, a group of companies operating in Canada began an effort to persuade the National Energy Board that technology has advanced so far that relief wells are no longer needed in the Arctic.”

That said, it has been estimated that it could now take 90 days to stop the underwater oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico and that more than 445,000 barrels of oil could eventually pollute the water with devastating impacts on the environment, people’s lives, and the economy.