21 days: we expect better protection than that

That’s a roll of the dice with your fingers crossed behind your back that a blowout will not occur

What are they thinking?

It’s proudly acknowledged by the federal Conservative government that oil and gas development is, if not No. 1, tied for the spot among their economic priorities.

But we were still surprised and horrified to read this week that federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq has given the okay to Shell’s offshore drilling plan that allows the oil giant to take 21 days to cap a subsea blowout.

That’s an environmental disaster waiting to happen.

That’s a roll of the dice with your fingers crossed behind your back that a blowout will not occur, because you know you’re unprepared to deal with the fallout.

And there would be fallout — the potential destruction of a major fishing ground.

How can we possibly take claims by this government that they take environmental protection seriously when they do something like this?

Still standing in the way of Shell’s exploratory drilling is approval from the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, but let’s face it, that body is not going to say no.

To put this into perspective, the U.S. appears to have learned something, at least, from the devastating Deepwater Horizon disaster, and have required Shell — yes, the same company — to cap any blowout from their drilling off the coast of Alaska within 24 hours.

Twenty-one days versus 24 hours. Big discrepancy.

A company cannot be allowed to take almost a month to stop oil or gas from gushing into our ocean waters.

That’s just absurd.

The excuse is that there is no capping stack available in the area and it would have to come from Norway.

Clearly, that’s not good enough.

The potential damage could be so extensive after 21 days as to be unrecoverable.

These are situations where every hour, every minute counts.

We expect our federal government to do better for us. We expect them to value our oceans and lands, not just as commodities to be plundered but as our home, to be preserved and protected first and foremost.