Cullen slams oil companies and NEB for leaving Canada at risk

OTTAWA When New Democrats called the National Energy Board and British Petroleum before committee, MPs expected to get some answers about the protections in place to prevent oil disasters in Canada.  Instead, they got obfuscation.

“Canadians are rightly worried and looking for answers,” said Nathan Cullen, NDP national critic for natural resources and energy and Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP.   “We gave the oil industry a chance to convince us that safeguards are in place. Instead, they gave us even greater cause for concern.”

The Standing Committee on Natural Resources is conducting urgent hearings into the regulations and response capability related to a potential offshore drilling disaster in Canadian waters. The National Energy Board, British Petroleum, and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers appeared alongside representatives from the Inuvialuit Game Council and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

In spite of the risks highlighted by Inuit witnesses, federal regulators admitted that they do not know whether Canada possesses the resources necessary to respond to a serious oil spill in the Arctic. Industry representatives were also unable to provide any reassurances about safety equipment that would prevent a disaster claiming they lacked technical expertise.

When asked why BP was lobbying federal regulators to relax safety rules just weeks before the Deepwater Horizon caught fire in the Gulf of Mexico, President Anne Drinkwater claimed that BP never asked for the Same Season Relief Well requirement to be scrapped.

Documents filed by BP, available on the NEB website, clearly contradict this testimony and show a request was made to scrap the “same season relief well requirement.”

“This is coming from an industry that is claiming we can trust it to self regulate,” said Cullen. “If they refuse to give straight answers to Parliamentarians, I don’t know how the NEB believes these companies can oversee their own safety. Today’s hearing made me more concerned about the risks and impacts of a major spill in Canada.”

Last week Cullen called for emergency hearings into regulations for offshore oil rigs in Canada.