|Gulf Oil Spill
The Gulf Spill: An Environmental Disaster
On April 20, the world awoke to a developing tragedy triggered by an explosion on BP's Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. After more than three months, the oil leak has at last been plugged, but not before over 750 million litres of oil spilled into the Gulf, an accident six times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill.
As much as half of the oil that gushed from the well before it was capped could still be in the gulf environment in some form, as tiny dispersed droplets, tar balls, surface slicks or oil buried in sand and ocean sediment.
It will be months, if not years, before the full impacts of this oil spill are known. In some cases, we may never know the extent of the effects on particular species.
Could it happen in Canada?
Canada's coastline is the longest in the world, including three oceans and a sea of arctic ice that support some of the most abundant marine life on Earth. But all three of our coasts are threatened by the negative effects of offshore drilling, tanker traffic and pipeline projects. Perhaps the greatest danger lies in drilling in the Arctic, where a spill would have devastating consequences for the region's fragile wildlife and ecosystems, and no technology exists to clean up a spill in so inhospitable an area.
What can Canada do to avoid a similar disaster?
Nature Canada is working to prevent a similar disaster on Canada's shores. We have been speaking out publicly to the media, government decision-makers and our members about what Canada can do to protect its marine ecosystems:
Temporary Moratorium is Due
The disaster in the Gulf is a wake-up call. It is time to place a moratorium on new offshore drilling, including the Arctic, and to end our reliance on dirty, polluting fossil fuels in favour of responsible development of clean, renewable energy. The Government of Canada should place a moratorium on new off-shore drilling projects until a consistent, strictly enforced set of regulations is in place that protects the environment, oil and gas workers and coastal communities.
In the near term, no new exploratory licenses should be granted and no applications approved until the National Energy Board (NEB) completes its review of Arctic safety and environmental offshore drilling requirements. A moratorium should also be in place until an independent review of offshore drilling on all of Canada's coasts is completed.
Get the Regulations Right
Strict regulations, and the will to adhere to them and enforce them, are absolutely essential for safe, sustainable oil and gas development off of Canada's shores, and in the Arctic.
Now is not the time to relax offshore drilling regulations. Rather than do away with the requirement to have advance plans for drilling same season relief wells in case of a spill, oil companies should be required to actually have relief wells in place before working wells are built. Also, blow-out preventers of the type that failed in the Gulf should be tested regularly by government regulators.
Transition to Green Energy
The highly profitable oil and gas companies do not need government handouts, and billions of dollars in tax breaks shouldn't go to an industry that is the source of rapidly increasing emissions of greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
Instead, more investment should be put toward renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.
Pursue a 'Protection First' Policy