Hopes of an early end to the ban on exploring British Columbia's offshore seem to have been dealt a swift setback this week, with Canada's Environment Minister David Anderson declaring that nothing will happen without a long and costly analysis.
British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell showed up in Ottawa on April 8 and 9 confident he could get a positive federal government decision to lift the moratorium "within the next two or three weeks."
He met with Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal, who has supported oil and gas exploration of the offshore provided it could be conducted in an environmentally sustainable manner.
But before Campbell or Dhaliwal could reach any agreement, Anderson intervened in defense of the moratorium that he, as a then federal assistant deputy minister was instrumental in establishing in 1972.
"I've always said the moratorium served a useful purpose and if it is to be lifted then it must be clear that potential benefits outweigh potential risks," he told reporters outside Parliament.
"We haven't done that analysis. It would be very expensive and take a lot of hard work," he said, without offering any estimates of cost or time.
Equally guarded was Petro-Canada, one of the leaseholders in the Queen Charlotte Basin, along with Shell Canada and Chevron Canada Resources.
A spokesman told the Financial Post that three major concerns would have to be resolved before his company would even consider activity in the region.
The list included: A clear integrated federal-provincial framework governing the offshore; a settlement of all outstanding First Nations land claims; identification and protection of all ecologically sensitive areas.
The spokesman said "work remains on all three fronts," and only if it could be completed would Petro-Canada revisit its exploration programs.
The Department of Natural Resources said today that the Alaska Royalty Oil and Gas Development Advisory Board meeting scheduled for April 17 has been postponed to May 21.
The May 21 meeting — scheduled for 8:30 a.m. in room 240 of the Atwood Building in Anchorage — will be a public hearing to discuss whether the state's proposed royalty gas sale to Anadarko Petroleum Corp., AEC Marketing Inc. and AEC Oil & Gas Inc., meets criteria established in Alaska statutes.
DNR Commissioner Pat Pourchot said last week that the department will not be submitting the royalty-in-kind contracts to the Legislature this session for approval.
"I think there's just too little time left in this legislative session," Pourchot said April 4.
Pourchot also said he has received written commitments from two of the three North Slope gas producers, "for a 180-day notice prior to the commencement of any future open season over the next couple of years."
And, he said, the state also wants to look at the royalty gas issue "in light of emerging federal legislation, which does provide for some access and expansion language."