Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic October 10, 2012 - 9:55 am

No moratorium on Arctic drilling, say EU lawmakers

"Disappointing," says environmental group

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
In 2011, the Ocean Rig Corcovado, drilling about 180 kilometres offshore Nuuk, drilled down 4,847 metres, where it encountered “minor hydrocarbon shows.” (FILE PHOTO)
In 2011, the Ocean Rig Corcovado, drilling about 180 kilometres offshore Nuuk, drilled down 4,847 metres, where it encountered “minor hydrocarbon shows.” (FILE PHOTO)

Lawmakers in the European Union have decided against issuing strict regulations on drilling that would have applied to all its members and against supporting a moratorium on all Arctic drilling.

Instead, offshore oil and gas firms must submit major hazard reports and emergency response plans before getting a licence to drill under a draft law approved by the European Parliaments’s Energy Committee on Oct. 9.

And licences would be granted only if the firm could prove it has enough money to clean up any environmental damage caused.

Norway’s environmental group Bellona said the committee was clearly influenced by “heavy lobbyism from the petroleum industry as well as the recent intense pressure from major petroleum producing countries.”

The EU-member states will still keep “significant leeway in the implementation of the legislation,” Bellona notes.

“It is equally disappointing that the Committee did not seize the opportunity to send a clear signal regarding the developments in the Arctic, where remote and difficult conditions combined with vulnerable ecosystems could turn any oil spill into an environmental disaster,” Bellona said.

Countries like Norway and the UK didn’t want to see stricter regulations or a moratorium.

Norway’s deputy oil and energy minister said that the EU claiming jurisdiction over the Arctic by banning offshore drilling “would almost be like us commenting on camel operations in the Sahara.”

The draft law replaces the EU member states’ current patchwork of laws and practices for offshore drilling activities, said an Oct. 9 news release from the European Parliament’s Industry, Transport, Research and Energy committee.

The new directives are designed to prevent accidents such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, it said.

Companies wanting to drill would also have to provide “an internal emergency plan, giving a full description of the equipment and resources available, action to be taken in the event of an accident and all arrangements made to limit risks and give the authorities early warning.”

At the same time, EU-member states would have to prepare external emergency response plans for all offshore drilling installations within their jurisdiction.

These plans would specify the role of drilling companies and their liability for costs in the event of a disaster.

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