Offshore drilling safeguards inadequate, warns energy critic Cullen

OTTAWA The Conservatives’ ongoing deregulation and their blind faith in promises from friends in the oil industry are placing Canadian waters increasingly at risk of a disaster on the scale of what we see today in the Gulf of Mexico, says NDP Energy Critic Nathan Cullen.

“Tens of thousands of barrels of oil are pouring into the ocean each day. This tragedy has been a wakeup call around the world, but the Conservatives haven’t heard the bell yet,” Cullen said at a press conference on Parliament Hill today.

“We’ve seen that even with the latest technology, deepwater drilling is extremely risky and if it goes wrong, Canadians will be left to clean up the mess.”

Cullen noted that spill response resources in Canada are minimal compared to the massive multi-agency effort now underway in the US, and the penalties to cover clean up and compensation in Canada also fall far short. Oil companies drilling offshore are only liable for $40 million in damages even though the costs would be many times higher. Meanwhile, Cullen pointed out, the Conservatives are gutting the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and handing assessments of energy projects to the industry-friendly National Energy Board.

“If we had a serious accident anywhere in our coastal waters, Canada would be left scrambling to respond, and a terrible situation would be made worse,” said New Democrat critic for Northern Development Dennis Bevington. “A spill in the Arctic would be an unmitigated disaster. This government has been pushing for new drilling before we have a plan in place to deal with the consequences.”

“We don’t have the resources to deal with a serious spill and, at the same time, the government is working to weaken our environmental protections across the board,” charged Cullen.  “We must act now to strengthen our laws to prevent disaster and protect Canada and our coastline.”

Today’s press conference follows on the heels of Cullen’s motion Tuesday at the parliamentary Natural Resources Committee calling for immediate hearings into regulations for offshore oil rigs in Canada. 

“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,” Cullen said Tuesday. “Canadians must do whatever possible to avoid a catastrophic disaster along our coasts.”