CALGARY — Environment Minister Jim Prentice says he will demand the highest environmental standards be followed as Greenland explores offshore oil drilling just outside of Canada’s territorial waters.
Prentice said he’ll make Canada’s position very clear at a meeting of Arctic countries next month.
“We certainly want to be sure that the highest possible environmental standards are being followed and we intend to make our views known,” he said at an event in Calgary.
“Obviously drilling offshore wells in the Arctic environment, particularly deep wells, is something that we are concerned about.
Greenland recently accepted bids to drill in Baffin Bay near the mouth of Lancaster Sound, which is close to where Canada hopes to establish a marine conservation area.
The territory hopes to drill along thousands of kilometres of the maritime border it shares with Canada starting this summer.
The area is known as “iceberg alley,” through which massive chunks of snow and ice that break off Greenland’s glaciers float on their way to the North Atlantic. Experts have expressed concern that it would be nearly impossible to remove spilled oil once it slipped under the vast pieces of ice.
Prentice said everyone is concerned about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and wants to make sure that any future drilling doesn’t put the environment at risk. He said that no deep wells will be drilled in Canada until 2014 at the earliest.
“Our own National Energy Board is undertaking a review of the standards under which those wells would be licensed, so we know that we’re going about this as Canadians in a very careful measured way, and that we’re not putting the environment at risk,” he said.
“We want to make sure that that’s the same off the shore of Greenland.”
Environmentalists are concerned about whether Greenland’s environmental regulation will be strict enough to keep the area safe. Offshore oil drilling enjoys wide
support in the territory because it is seen as a financial boost that could eventually lead to full independence from Denmark.
The government has said Canada is seeking clarification on how a 1983 Canada-Denmark agreement on the marine environment will apply under Greenland’s home rule government, which now controls its own resources.