The NDP MP for Skeena is suggesting that planned seismic testing in the Hecate Strait may be the wedge that moves along the quest for off shore oil and gas exploration.
Nathan Cullen fears that the scientists involved in the Batholiths Proposal are being hoodwinked over their plans to explore an area in the Douglas Channel and Hecate Strait. Cullen believes if seismic testing is approved for parts of the area, it could open the door for exploration for offshore oil and gas.
Pushing forward a process that he suggests is being promoted by the Provincial Government without benefit of a serious debate over the pros and cons of offshore development.
The Daily News examined his concerns over the project in the Friday edition of the Daily News.
MP fears for future over oil and gas
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Friday December 22, 2006
Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen says a project that will involve seismic testing on North Coast inlets to study the crust of the earth will be another step toward offshore oil and gas drilling in the Hecate Strait.
He made his comments despite the fact that the international research team says it will not be doing the testing anywhere near where petroleum resources are located.
“We talked to a bunch of the different groups involved, including the scientists, who I think are well-intentioned but being a bit hoodwinked on this,” said Cullen of the ‘Batholiths Proposal’.
“This is the wedge driving in ... it leads down the path of drilling in the Hecate Strait.”
A research team made up of U.S. and Canadian scientists is currently undergoing an environmental assessment to use marine seismic testing as part of their project, which will allow them to look down to depths of 50 kilometres.
The study will explore how batholiths — large bodies of rock — interact with the pre-existing crust of the continents, said Ron Clowes, professor of Geophysics with the University of British Columbia during a presentation in Prince Rupert last June.
The team wants to use seismic testing as one method to study the Coast Mountain range between Kitimat and Bella Coola to determine how continents are formed.
The research team is hoping to receive approval to run seismic tests on ‘north’ and ‘south’ routes — the former from the coast up the Douglas Channel and in the south from the coast into channels near Bella Coola.
The seismic testing, if it’s approved, would take place during three weeks next fall using the research vessel the R/V Langseth, towing 36 airguns and a three to five kilometre streamer behind it to capture the data.
“I know some of you will be concerned this has something to do with oil and gas exploration. It does not,” said Clowes.
In fact, there’s no oil and gas potential where the team will be doing its research, he said during his presentation.
However Cullen believes if seismic testing is approved for parts of the area, it could open the door for exploration for offshore oil and gas.
This is especially a concern given the provincial government’s interest in the area.
“These little things the province does to drive the issue forward, I think are quite feeble,” said Cullen.
He said Premier Gordon Campbell’s recent comments about drilling in the Hecate Strait while in Hong Kong were irresponsible.
Premier Gordon Campbell told investors in Hong Kong in late November that B.C.’s offshore oil and natural gas reserves might be open for development within two or three years, once the scientific case for exploration can be made.
“It doesn’t push a serious debate forward when the premier’s out there speculating and then denying his comments,” said Cullen.
“The batholiths are well-intentioned folks but I think they’re being used.”
The batholiths proposal is also being opposed by environmental groups who say the testing will have an impact on fish and wildlife.
“There are a large number of humpback whales feeding in this area in the fall – exactly the time when this blasting would take place,” says Chris Genovali of the Raincoast Conservation Society.
“The seismic testing would disrupt their feeding and could reduce the whales’ ability to have healthy offspring.”
The government’s public comment period on the draft environmental assessment report closes Dec. 31.