Shell’s Arctic oil plan threatens Yukon: Bagnell

Federal Liberal candidate Larry Bagnell says Yukoners need to be aware of the threat that Shell's plan to drill in the Arctic poses to Canada.

Federal Liberal candidate Larry Bagnell says Yukoners need to be aware of the threat that Shell’s plan to drill in the Arctic poses to Canada.

There just isn’t the technology to do a proper job of cleanup if there is an oil spill in Arctic waters, he said.

“It’s hard enough, as you know, in not-ice-laden waters. And because the Arctic Ocean has circular water currents, anything that happens in Alaskan or Greenland waters – where they’re also on the verge of drilling – will have an effect on the Canadian Arctic including the Yukon’s North Slope.

“I think a number of people may not be aware of the imminent danger. When you see the residual damage from the Exxon Valdez and the oil spill in the gulf of Mexico, it’s not like it cleans up quickly.”

The U.S. government gave the OK last week for Shell to begin drilling in the Chukchi Sea. The decision has been met with protests across the continent, especially in Seattle, where hundreds took to the water in canoes and kayaks close to where the company’s Polar Pioneer drilling rig sits.

Yukoners need to learn about the potential threat of a spill, and start a public conversation about their concerns, said Bagnell.

“I think they should contact their politicians and their environment departments to inquire first about clean-up technology, what the plans are for cleanups.

“And then once there’s public pressure then that affects the regulators, the president and his departments that actually recommend for these situations.”

Bagnell said he’s also concerned about developments related to Arctic oil here at home.

Chevron Corp. and Imperial Oil Ltd. have asked the National Energy Board to consider alternatives to requiring a relief well to be established in the same season as initial drilling.

A relief well provides a way to divert the pressure in the event of a spill.

The companies say that other methods could ensure a similar level of safety, although few details of alternative plans have been made public.

The energy board will likely hear the proposal later this year.

“The fact that the producers actually asked for an exemption in Canadian waters to not have to drill the relief well in the same year is really scary,” said Bagnell.

“Can you imagine oil pouring out into the Arctic Ocean pouring out all season, waiting for them until next season to drill a relief well?”

The Arctic Council could have a role in taking on the issue of co-ordinating between Arctic nations to better understand the implications of a potential oil spill and figure out what’s safe enough, said Bagnell.

But in the end, perhaps it would be best for the oil to stay in the ground, he said.

“Because of global warming, and the cuts that need to be made to carbon production, there’s no necessity to drilling in unsafe places.

“Why would you threaten a pristine environment with new production?”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at