Canada To Make Decision on Offshore Pacific Drilling

The Canadian government will decide by the end of 2003 on whether or not to allow offshore exploration on its pacific coast, according to Minister Herb Dhaliwal. There has been a moratorium on offshore drilling since 1972. "We'll be set up a process where we can look at all the environmental, the social and economic considerations, and by the end of the year make a decision on the moratorium," he said.

"We're working with the province of British Columbia on B.C. offshore oil and gas. I've said right from day one that if we can take advantage of economic opportunities that exist but evaluating the environmental concerns, that (if) we can do it in a sustainable way, that I'd be very supportive." He said the province of Quebec was also interested in exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence area.

Most federal and provincial politicians from British Columbia are eager to open the area up to exploration. The most notable exception is Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson, who helped establish the drilling moratorium in 1972.

The Geological Survey of Canada estimates the Queen Charlotte Basin to have reserves of some 10 billion barrels of oil and 26 trillion cubic feet of gas. This basin is located off the southern tip of the Alaska panhandle.