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PEW study urges Canada to suspend Arctic oil exploration
by Staff Writers
Montreal (AFP) Sept 9, 2011

An environmental group urged Canada Friday to suspend oil exploration in the Arctic, warning that otherwise it risks an environmental disaster worse than the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The PEW environmental group said in a report that it does not necessarily oppose developing the oil and gas reserves at the top of the world, but called on Canada to become "Arctic ready" and urged reforms of the way it regulates the industry.

Canada has already granted exploration permits to British Petroleum (BP), ConocoPhilips and Imperial in the Beaufort sea, on the border of the northern Yukon and Alaska.

But after BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last year, Canada's energy office began reviewing security and environmental requirements for offshore drilling in the Arctic.

As such, PEW argued, Canada should suspend drilling licenses already granted and stop the process until the risks of a disaster can be reduced.

"The Deepwater Horizon disaster has highlighted the risks of offshore oil drilling in general. Exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean poses even greater risks, and the consequences of a major spill are potentially much more severe," the PEW report said.

"Canada should seize this opportunity to enact significant reforms to the licensing and regulatory sides of its Arctic offshore hydrocarbon program," it said.

The report said existing technologies for recovering oil in the event of spills have never been proven in the Arctic.

Mechanical methods for recovering spilled oil were designed for use in open waters -- not the Arctic's icy waters -- and dense fog, high seas and freezing temperatures may foreclose using boats in such operations, it said.

Likewise, it said there was little data to show that burning spilled oil, another method of dealing with oil spills, would work in Arctic conditions.

The report said more research needed to be done to determine whether chemical dispersants would offer "a pragmatic response option for Arctic waters."

The study also said the Canadian Coast Guard has yet to establish whether it has the capabilities to intervene in the event of an Arctic spill, and it stressed the need to regulate the maritime transport of oil from the Beaufort Sea to Alaska or the Northwest Passage.

Other Arctic nations -- the United States, Russia, Denmark, Greenland -- and the major oil companies also covet the Arctic's oil, now that global warming has made it more accessible.

According to the US Geological Survey, the region contains a fifth of the world's undiscovered oil reserves.

"Canada has the opportunity to lead the way to environmentally safe oil and gas development in the Arctic Ocean," the PEW report said.

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Canadian producers set fracking guidelines
Calgary, Alberta (UPI) Sep 9, 2011 -The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers released a set of principles to govern the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing used to release vast reserves of natural gas.

CAPP's guidelines emphasize water management and improved disclosure of water and fluid practices for the technique of hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, which involves massive amounts of water, sand and chemicals injected at high pressure to fracture rock and release natural gas.

Critics of fracking say it releases methane into the atmosphere and leaves groundwater supplies vulnerable to harmful chemicals in fracking fluid.

CAPP's announcement Thursday comes a day after New York state's environmental regulator extended by 30 days a public comment period on rules for natural gas drilling that could end the state's yearlong ban on fracking.

"Protecting Canada's water resources is fundamental to our social license to operate and to grow," said CAPP President Dave Collyer. CAPP represents most of Canada's major oil and gas producers.

"With the increase in natural gas production from unconventional sources such as shale, Canadians have told us they want more information as to how industry uses and protects water."

Studies indicate there is potentially 1,000 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in the country, says Canada's National Energy Board.

Matt Horne, an analyst with environmental group Pembina Institute said that, while CAPP's move is a positive step, it doesn't replace the need for strong government regulation.

"We would certainly rather see those -- disclosure on fracturing chemicals, for example -- be required by government as opposed to being voluntary by industry," he told the Calgary Herald.

Also Thursday, British Columbia's Premier Christy Clark announced new rules aimed at increased transparency of fracking methods used in the province's natural gas industry.

Starting in January, she said, British Columbia will put a registry online showing where fracking activities are taking place along with details about the practices and the nature of the liquids injected underground as part of the gas recovery process.

"British Columbia is committed to the development of a more open and transparent natural gas sector and the disclosure of hydraulic fracturing practices and additives supports this goal," Clark said in a news release.

In a statement CAPP said it supports British Columbia's move to improve disclosure, noting that the group's principles apply nationally, providing the same type of transparency to shale gas developments regardless of jurisdiction.

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China ready to help Libya reconstruction
Auckland (AFP) Sept 9, 2011
China is ready to help Libya rebuild after Moamer Kadhafi's downfall and it supports the United Nations taking a leading role in reconstruction efforts, Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said Friday. "It depends on the needs of the Libyan people themselves, whatever they need we will be willing to help them," Cui told reporters on the sidelines of the Pacific Islands Forum in Auckland. C ... read more

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