Canadian legislators grill BP over Arctic drilling

Thu May 13, 2010 3:28pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Exasperated Canadian legislators grilled the head of BP Plc Canadian unit on Thursday, concerned about the risks of the company's plans to drill in Arctic waters after the catastrophic Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

But Anne Drinkwater, president of BP Canada, offered few answers at a hearing at Parliament's Standing Committee on Natural Resources on the safety of drilling in the Far North.

Drinkwater, who has also run BP operations in Indonesia, Angola and Norway, declined to answer technical questions and said she had not compared Canadian and U.S. drilling regulations, straining the credulity of some on the committee.

"You'd think coming to a hearing like this that British Petroleum would have as many answers as possible to assure the Canadian public. We got nothing today from them," said Nathan Cullen of the left-leaning New Democrats.

"I was very disappointed. I think British Petroleum is going to have to do a lot better job if they want to drill in Canadian waters," Cullen told reporters afterward.

Larry Bagnell of the Liberals, after asking Drinkwater to compare regulations in Canada and the United States, said: "I thought she didn't have answers to a lot of questions ... I was asking for a very simple answer."

Critics say an oil blowout in the Canadian Arctic would be much worse than the current Gulf disaster, given the ice, severe weather conditions and the lack of infrastructure in one of the world's most remote regions.

In 2008, BP paid C$1.2 billion ($1.8 billion) for rights to explore three parcels in Canada's Beaufort Sea, north of the Arctic Circle.   Continued...