MP calls for review of oil drilling regulations

  • May. 12, 2010 10:00 a.m.

The disastrous, ongoing Gulf of Mexico oil spew has Canadian politicians like Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen calling for tougher rules to make sure nothing like it ever happens off the coast of Canada. “You just can’t watch those images on TV without thinking, what would that look like here?” Mr. Cullen said. “The clean-up ability here is so weak, it’s almost non-existent.” The issue is especially acute on the north coast, where oil tanker traffic could increase dramatically if the Enbridge pipeline to Kitimat is built, and in the Arctic, where several oil companies are set to begin exploratory offshore drilling this summer, he said. Mr. Cullen, the NDP’s energy critic and a member of the standing committee on natural resources, said the committee’s attention has been focused on offshore drilling regulations and oil rig safety since the April 20 British Petroleum blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. His motion calling for immediate hearings into the issue was accepted, which means that starting today (May 13), witnesses from BP and other oil companies will be summoned to Ottawa to answer MPs’ questions about how they will ensure the safety of the Arctic environment. “There’s a lot of concern about the government’s plan to open up drilling in the Arctic,” he said. “Could a spill like what happened in the Gulf happen here?” Mr. Cullen said he is eager to hear what the oil companies have to say about the safety of their Arctic plans in light of the Gulf incident, which involved a brand new oil rig that met all regulations. “The fact is what happened in the Gulf was never supposed to happen, never,” he said. “Public relations-wise for the oil companies, this is a disaster.” BP is one of the companies that wants to drill in Canada’s northern waters, along with ConocoPhillips, Imperial Oil and Chevron. Mr. Cullen said he wants to know who will pay in the event of an accident, noting that in Canada oil companies enjoy a “liability cap” of about $40 million. This means lower insurance costs for the companies, he said, but also means that taxpayers will have to pick up the rest of the tab in case of a serious spill.