European lawmakers decide against a moratorium on Arctic drilling

This draft law replaces the EU's current patchwork of laws and practices for offshore drilling activities and is aimed at preventing accidents such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Instead of strict regulations on drilling for all European Member States (and a general moratorium on all Arctic drilling) the lawmakers decided that offshore oil and gas firms are required to submit major hazard reports and emergency response plans before getting a licence to drill.

Such a licence would be granted on condition that the firm could prove it has enough money to clean up any environmental damage caused. 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.” according to European Parliament.

At the same time, EU-member states would have to prepare external emergency response plans which specify the role of drilling companies and their liability in case of disaster for all offshore drilling installations within their jurisdiction.

According to Bellona, a Norwegian environmental organization, this decision was influenced by "heavy lobbying from the petroleum industry as well as the recent intense pressure from major petroleum producing countries."

Bellona also said that “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."

Several countries like Norway and the U.K. were against stricter regulations or a moratorium. According to Noway's deputy OIl and Energy Minister, European claims of jurisdiction over the Arctic by banning offshore drilling “would almost be like us commenting on camel operations in the Sahara.”

Adapted from an article by Nunatsiaq News.

Thursday 11 Oct 2012

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