Meeting Summary - 25 November 2010 - Gwich'in Tribal Council (NGTC) boardroom, Inuvik, NT

Arctic Offshore Drilling Review

Meeting Summary

Date and Location
Date Location
Thursday
25 November 2010
9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Gwich'in Tribal Council (NGTC) boardroom
Inuvik, NT

Purpose: Introduce the Arctic Offshore Drilling Review to the Nihtat Gwich'in Tribal Council (NGC) Members, and officially initiate Phase 1 (information gathering) activities in the Gwich'in Settlement Area (GSA).

Participants
Participants
Herbert Blake Chief, NGC
Bridget Larocque President, Inuvik Metis Council          
Jozef Carnogursky Member, Inuvik Metis Council
Leonard Debastien
Danny Andre
Paul
 
Gaétan Caron Chair and Chief Executive Officer, NEB
David Hamilton Member, NEB
Brian Chambers Northern Advisor, Strategy and Analysis, NEB
Bharat Dixit Technical Leader, Conservation of Resources, NEB

Introductory Remarks:

  • Chief Blake welcomed the NEB, expressed appreciation for meeting with in the Nihtat Gwich'in Tribal Council. Noted that the land and the people are inter-connected and what happens offshore can have an impact on the migration pattern and abundance of the animals and fish that the Gwich'in rely on. He expressed interest in comparing regulatory regimes in Canada and the U.S., noting the recent drilling in the Greenland offshore and the regulatory regime in the U.S. The key was how to make operations safe for all.
  • Gaétan Caron acknowledged the connection between the land and the people, and expressed desire to make the Arctic Review accessible/ comfortable to all participants. Provided an overview of the Arctic Offshore Drilling Review.
  • David Hamilton noted that confidence needs to be regained in the companies proposing to drill offshore.

Dialogue with meeting participants:

Nihtat G'wich'in Council and Inuvik Metis Council representatives identified areas of interest and concern. These included:

  1. Safety of Offshore Drilling:

    • Reminder of incident off the coast of Santa Barbara (California, 1969) and similarity to Gulf of Mexico incident. Noted that in 40 years since, nothing appears to have been learned and the same mistakes appear to have been repeated
    • The Exxon Valdez incident; how long it took for response action to contain the spill. This was contrasted with the immense difficulties that would be encountered in the Beaufort Sea where activities would be hampered by ice, cold, and darkness
    • Questions on adequacy of the regulations and the effectiveness of the tools were identified as matters of concern
    • Concerns around standards for equipment, training, and capacity in the community to address spills should they occur in the Beaufort Sea. It was further noted that Northern communities should be consulted and involved in spill preparedness
    • Questions were on the test that the NEB would apply to assess the completeness of a company's application (are there any standards against which the applications would be evaluated)

  2. Environmental Protection:

    • The issue of 'fracking' and the concerns around injection of some 500 chemicals or contaminents that might enter the water table and adversely affect the land and the animals, and eventually the people
    • Issue of climate change and creation of a 'dead zone' (where saline water encroaches into fresh water areas killing vegetation), and storm surges
    • Need for leaders to provide for protection of the land and the people with emphasis on human health issues

  3. Consultation:

    • Observation is that the Gwich'in have never been advised or asked to participate in the spill response exercises in the Mackenzie Delta
    • It was noted that Inuvik would be impacted by drilling activities and any incidents, and the NEB needs to be mindful of this as Inuvik is where the Gwich'in, Inuvialuit, Metis, and non-status Indians all live
    • Old Crow and Herschel Island were identified as places currently or previously occupied by the Gwich'in and should be included in consultation
    • Additional interest was expressed around the inclusion and assessment of any new technology that could be introduced for offshore drilling

  4. Effectiveness of Emergency Response to Incidents:

    • Expectations around having a back-up rig available to drill a relief well should the original well goes out of control

  5. Clarity of Roles and Terms

    • Clarity on recently-awarded exploratory licences and their tenure before drilling activities are required
    • Connections between the Arctic Review and the role of the Arctic Council (and some of its studies in the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment - PAME)
    • UNCLOS (United Nations Law of the Seas) and the effects on the Inuvialuit Settlement Region and the Gwich'in Settlement Area
    • Ability of the NEB to take over operations if not satisfied with the way the company was conducting drilling operations.

Concluding Remarks:

  • Gaétan Caron thanked the Nihtat Gwich'in Tribal Council and the Inuvik Metis Council for asking the tough questions of the NEB. Noted that the NEB is asking the same tough questions in its Call for Information.
  • David Hamilton invited the Nihtat Gwich'in Tribal Council and the Metis Council and members to provide questions or ideas that the NEB may have missed or not adequately addressed.
  • Chief Blake thanked the NEB for making the time to meet with the Nihtat Gwich'in Tribal Council. He concluded by noting that the Gwich'in are asking the tough questions not as a means of stopping or opposing offshore operations, rather as stewards of the land.
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