Canada, U.S. announce ban on offshore oil, gas licenses in Arctic – by Dan Healing (Toronto Star – December 21, 2016)

CANADIAN PRESS – CALGARY—The federal government announced Tuesday plans to ban offshore oil and gas licensing in the Arctic, citing the need to protect the environment from future energy development, but the move was largely dismissed by industry observers as a weak gesture that won’t harm their interests.

The measure was part of a joint announcement with the U.S., which designated the bulk of its federally controlled waters in the Arctic Ocean and certain areas in the Atlantic Ocean as indefinitely off-limits to future oil and gas leasing.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada’s ban is intended to ensure a sustainable Arctic economy, preserve the region’s ecosystem and prevent future risks associated with offshore oil and gas activity — goals that earned applause from environmental groups such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund.

But experts pointed out that there are no drilling plans in the region now, suggesting that the ban is of little consequence. Michael Byers, a University of British Columbia professor who recently published a book called “Who Owns the Arctic?”, said the only surprise in Ottawa’s announcement is that it provides for a five-year review.

Byers said the move seems to be politically motivated and is designed to show that Trudeau is protecting the environment despite a recent decision to sanction two oil pipelines — the Trans Mountain expansion and Line 3 replacement project.

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