Cullen calls for urgent hearings on offshore drilling

OTTAWA Nathan Cullen, NDP National Critic for Natural Resources and Energy, today called for immediate hearings into regulations for offshore oil rigs in Canada. 

Cullen, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP since 2004, introduced a motion calling for the hearings at today’s parliamentary Natural Resources Committee. Cullen said the environmental disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico after the April 20 British Petroleum oil rig explosion shows the urgent need for regulatory hearings in Canada.

“The same oil companies that are responsible for the sinking of an oil rig and the subsequent spill are applying for leases to operate in the Beaufort Sea under lax regulation,” said Cullen.  “We need to make sure that years of deregulation haven’t created the same climate that led to the disaster in the Gulf.”

New Democrats are calling for urgent hearings to review the regulations for Canadian offshore oil and gas projects, following the BP spill which is now dumping 750,000 litres of oil into the Gulf of Mexico each day.

“Canadians need to be assured that no lease or drilling activity will be allowed unless companies meet strict and sound environmental laws,” Cullen said. 

Canada’s National Energy Board is currently considering requests from oil and gas extractors — including BP— for an exemption from the requirement to drill a relief well for projects in the Canadian Arctic. The lack of a relief well is being cited as a key problem in the Gulf of Mexico case.

Cullen dismissed claims by BC Environment Minister Barry Penner that it is “premature” to compare the situation in the Gulf of Mexico with anything in B.C.

“That may be what the minister thinks but it certainly isn’t what I’m hearing people in the Northwest and elsewhere in BC say,” said Cullen.   “It’s prudent and responsible to take a sober second look at any proposed energy project, Enbridge or otherwise, that has the potential to destroy natural resource economies and fragile ecosystems.

“The crisis in the Gulf of Mexico is sending the world a clear warning – playing with petroleum is dangerous,” said Cullen.  “We can create jobs without exposing our environment and way of life to such risks.” – 30 –