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NEWS: Unrepresentative NEB begins Arctic drilling ‘consultation’ today

The Globe and Mail reports, “Starting Monday (September 12), the National Energy Board will convene a roundtable (in Inuvik, NWT), featuring company representatives, environmental experts and scores of residents from Inuit communities that depend on Arctic waters for their livelihoods. …Major producers, including Imperial Oil Ltd. and Chevron Corp., hold leases in the Beaufort Sea and are eager for the NEB to clear the way for activity to begin, though there are no current applications for drilling licences. …(They will) seek to reassure the National Energy Board of their ability to prevent blowouts and respond effectively to spills.”

In 2010, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs announced that Chevron had won an exploration license for 205,000 hectares of seabed about 100 kilometres north of Herschel Island in the Beaufort Sea. In 2008, BP acquired three licenses for exploration rights in a 6,000 square kilometre area about 180 kilometres off the coast of the Northwest Territories in the Beaufort Sea. Imperial Oil and ExxonMobil Canada have also secured exploration rights.

In May 2010 the NEB announced that it would be reviewing Arctic offshore drilling requirements following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Globe and Mail reports, “(The NEB) plans by the end of the year (December 2011) to issue a report that would set minimum requirements for future offshore Arctic drilling applications.”

But concerns persist about the credibility (and legitimacy) of the National Energy Board itself.

The Globe and Mail reported in July 2010 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.”

The NDP has 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.” Then NDP-leader Jack Layton stated that the National Energy Board’s makeup is not “representative enough to provide the kind of review Canadians want for oil and gas activities in the Arctic offshore.”

In August 2010, the Montreal Gazette reported, “Since the Conservatives took power in February 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet has made 25 appointments to the boards of the National Energy Board, which regulates offshore petroleum exploration on Canada’s Arctic and West coasts, and the two federal-provincial agencies that regulate drilling off the East Coast: the Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board and the Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. …Most of the individuals appointed by the Harper government to the agencies that oversee offshore-petroleum drilling in Canada are former industry insiders or government officials with no stated experience in environmental issues.”

More on the Council of Canadians Arctic campaign at