The federal government has agreed to talk with Northern governments about jointly managing Arctic off-shore oil and gas resources.

The move has sparked hope that the moratorium on new drilling licences in the Beaufort Sea could end in 2021. In a statement issued Thursday, Premier Bob McLeod said he “welcomes the announcement” of federal negotiations with the Northwest Territories, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and Yukon on a Beaufort Sea oil and gas co-management and revenue-sharing agreement.

“The strength of the Northwest Territories economy and the well-being of its residents depends on the sustainable development of its natural resources,” stated McLeod.

“That includes the responsible development of the NWT’s significant onshore and offshore oil and gas resources.”

In December of 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau placed a five-year moratorium on new oil and gas exploration licenses in the Arctic. Former United States President Barack Obama simultaneously implemented a ban on arctic drilling (President Donald Trump has since made plans to reopen the Arctic to offshore drilling).

McLeod has repeatedly called for the moratorium on new licences to be lifted, most notably in his November “red alert,” in which he stated that the temporary ban was made without consultation, and is “but one example of our economic self-determination being thwarted by Ottawa.”

Thursday’s announcement also includes a promise to “freeze the terms of the existing licences in the Arctic offshore to preserve existing rights, (and) remit the balance of any financial deposit related to licences to affected licence holders.”

There are currently 63 licence holders in Beaufort Sea.

Oil and gas activities in the Beaufort remain on hold until at least 2021, pending a review of the moratorium.

The premier was unavailable for an interview on Thursday.

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