No one will notice…‘til she blows

The National Energy Board (NEB) is continuing its undemocratic approach to pleasing its master: the oil industry. Most recently, the Calgary-based rubber stamp is trying to use the summer to hide yet another concession. On July 11th the NEB said it was going consider a request from Imperial Oil and Chevron to weaken the rules for offshore drilling in the Arctic and gave the public until August 1st to comment (some strong arguing won an extra two weeks).

What the NEB is entertaining might very well lead to an ecological disaster in the Canadian Arctic where Imperial Oil and Chevron want to operate outside the rules for drilling. They simply want to avoid the cost of drilling relief wells and, predictably, the NEB is seriously considering it. It’s a case of pinching pennies that could risk billions. For details click here.

You may recall the biggest oil spill in history occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in 2009 and continued for weeks while crews raced to drill a relief well (so that the leaking oil well could be capped). At the time, I wrote to the NEB encouraging it to make relief wells mandatory.

Time heals all wounds?

A little time passes and you and I are expected to forget what happened in the Gulf. Meanwhile, as we enjoy our summer by the lake, the NEB quietly prepares to drop this key safety feature – requiring relief wells. We don’t yet know what Imperial Oil and Chevron plan to replace the relief wells with, but whatever it is it has never been tested in the deep waters of the Beaufort Sea in -30 degree temperature.

The second insidious part of the plot is making a ruling before any environmental assessment can be undertaken. Even with the limitation of the 2012 omnibus bill-degraded Environmental Assessment Act, it is still a better forum to examine important safety issues than the NEB boardroom.

And why the dead-of-summer timetable? The oil companies want the NEB to take rules on relief wells (and the issue itself) off the table now so they won’t have to face public scrutiny.

I know many of you are thinking there should be no drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean—that’s Sierra Club Canada Foundation’s position too! One of the ways to prevent drilling in the Arctic is to discourage it with strict safety regulations. That will ensure big oil looks for its oil elsewhere--or better yet, invests in the green economy (which will become more attractive as a result of strict rules).

I need your help to convince the NEB to do the job it is mandated to do: protecting the interests of Canadians and one of those interests is a pristine and healthy Beaufort Sea. The NEB has constructed a deliberately complex process designed to reduce public participation. The convoluted scheme can be found here, but rather than send you to that rat hole of techno babble I’m suggesting we simply demand a halt to the proceedings.

The reality is the NEB is NOT required to reconsider its rules just to please the oil industry.


Thank you for your consideration and ongoing support. Together we can protect and preserve the Beaufort Sea for its inhabitants and for future generations.


John Bennett, National Program Director
Sierra Club Canada Foundation
1510-1 Nicholas Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7B7
John on Twitter / Bennett Blog

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