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VIEW: The Arctic more at risk than the Gulf of Mexico, says Thomas Walkom

Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom writes today that, “The United States may have stumbled into the worst ecological disaster in its history (with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico). But we have deliberately chosen to head in the same direction.”

“American regulation of the offshore oil industry has been revealed as a sham. Our regulation of drilling in the far harsher North Atlantic and Arctic is said by experts to be even weaker. And thanks to what is in effect a conspiracy between the governing Conservatives and opposition Liberals to avoid an early election, Canada’s environmental rules are about to be further gutted.”

NEWFOUNDLAND: “No one is innocent. The Newfoundland government strongly supports Chevron’s drilling in the stormy Orphan basin, some 450 kilometres into the North Atlantic, even though a spill there would be almost impossible to contain. The reason? Premier Danny Williams thirsts after the tax revenues that big oil generates.”

NUNAVUT: “A review panel of the Inuit-dominated government of Nunavut supports seismic testing to locate offshore oil in the Eastern Arctic for the same reason.”

THE LIBERALS AND CONSERVATIVES: “A Liberal government under Paul Martin relaxed the rules for Arctic oil exploration. A Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper is easing the rules even more.”

THE NATIONAL ENERGY BOARD: “Until the Gulf spill occurred, Ottawa’s National Energy Board appeared poised to give Arctic drillers – including BP – an exemption from crucial environmental safety rules, simply because they found them inconvenient.”

“Canada’s federal government is quietly pushing ahead with plans to give the oil industry a double boost — first by giving the more pliant NEB sole responsibility for the environmental assessment of Arctic oil proposals; second by letting the cabinet exempt some projects from scrutiny altogether. The opposition Liberals, desperate to avoid an election they might lose, are refusing to block either. The politicians and their oil friends calculate — probably correctly — that a year from now the Gulf spill will be forgotten, the media will again be focused on Tiger Woods’ sex life and few will be paying attention to who regulates what in the Beaufort Sea.”

His column is at http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/arctic/article/816083–walkom-threat-of-oil-spill-disaster-worse-in-canada?bn=1.