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Senate gives thumbs up to offshore drilling

A Senate committee says there's no need to prevent companies from drilling for oil in Canadian coastal waters.

With oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico and Chevron drilling deep off the Atlantic coast, the Senate committee on energy, the environment and natural resources launched a study in May to determine the potential for a similar calamity in Canada.

In particular, the committee looked at whether calls for a moratorium on drilling in Canadian waters were well founded. After hearing from 26 witnesses, the committee concluded in its report released Wednesday that they are not.

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"No evidence was adduced to justify any such ban or suspension and the committee is recommending that the said Chevron operation continue as planned, under close scrutiny and supervision by the regulators," the report says.

The bipartisan committee did, however, say there is a need to examine the structure of regulatory boards to determine if there is a "material conflict" between their roles as promoters of development and environmental stewards.

The committee also recommended that the regulators and industry take a hard look at the condition under which relief wells should be drilled. A relief well to take pressure off the BP well that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico has taken many months to drill.

But David Angus, the Conservative who chairs the committee, told a news conference Wednesday the senators were satisfied that the safety precautions currently in place are sufficient to prevent a similar disaster in Canada.

Senator Grant Mitchell, a Liberal from Alberta, said the report aimed to balance economic and environmental concerns and pointed out the huge financial benefit to Canadians that flows from allowing companies to drill offshore.

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