Moratorium will not be lifted soon: environment minister

  • Jul. 2, 2004 2:00 p.m.

There is no way the federal moratorium on offshore oil and gas development will be lifted any time soon, Environment Minister David Anderson told the Observer Friday, Alex Rinfret writes.
Mr. Anderson, a Liberal MP from Victoria who was re-elected Monday, said the government is “not moving one iota” on changing the moratorium.
In response to requests from the provincial government, the federal Liberals did agree to spend about $1-million on a three-prong process, he said. The first part of that process, the Royal Society’s scientific report, identified knowledge gaps which will cost $140-million and take years to fill, he said.
Normally, industry would pay for the studies to fill the knowledge gaps, he said, but in this case there seems to be little interest from that sector. The drive to lift the moratorium is coming entirely from the provincial government, Mr. Anderson said.
The environment minister said he is “very, very, very confident” that the moratorium will stay put, even though the second stage of the process, a public review panel, has not yet released its report. He added that the offshore oil and gas industry is falling from favour in the United States, with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to stop drilling off the coast of California, and President George W. Bush agreeing to move Florida drilling activity 100 miles away from the coastline.
It’s “stupid argument number one” to suggest that it is unfair for Ottawa to allow drilling on the east coast and ban it on the west coast, he said, because the majority of British Columbians support the moratorium.
“I was the person who got this moratorium put in place 33 years ago,” he said. “Polling of British Columbians has shown that 70-percent oppose drilling.”
Events like Monday’s large earthquake off the coast of Haida Gwaii show this region has issues completely different from any encountered off the coast of Newfoundland, he added.
“We have a clear process, and that is not going to change,” Mr. Anderson said. “I’m damned if I’m going to let some idiot proceed with drilling.”