Greenpeace polar bears by the dozens invade headquarters of Arctic oil drillers

Feature story - July 18, 2011
Edinburgh — Dozens of Greenpeace activists in polar bear costumes have invaded the international headquarters of the controversial Edinburgh-based oil company Cairn Energy to search for a copy of the company’s secret oil spill plans.

Greenpeace Activists invade Cairn Headquarters © Greenpeace

At 8.15 a.m. this morning, more than 60 volunteers from Greenpeace UK entered Cairn’s offices to search for the secret plans which detail how the company would respond if it caused an oil spill in the Arctic’s pristine environment. Cairn is currently doing risky deep-water oil drilling in the Arctic waters off Greenland, home to numerous important animals like polar bears, narwhals and walruses. Cairn is breaking with industry norms by refusing to publish its oil spill response plans.

Some polar bear activists searched for documents, other activists inside the office handed out leaflets to the hundreds of Cairn Energy staff based there. The leaflets explain how they can become whistleblowers and put the secret spill documents in the public domain.

Greenpeace is taking action to protect the Arctic, a priceless part of the global commons. Oil companies like Cairn energy cannot be allowed to hide their risky Arctic oil drilling business from public scrutiny. The document is being kept secret because Cairn knows a major oil spill from deep water drilling in the Arctic can’t be cleaned up.

Earlier this year Greenpeace activists, including international executive director Kumi Naidoo and a Canadian, repeatedly boarded Cairn Energy’s oil rig, Leiv Eirikisson, in the freezing Arctic waters off Greenland in an attempt to get hold of Cairn’s spill response plan and to prevent drilling from going ahead. Many of these activists spent time in jail in Greenland. Cairn Energy eventually took legal action to try and stop further protests through an injunction.

Following a Greenpeace complaint, Greenland's Ombudsman requested the Bureau of Mineral and Petroleum (BMP) "to forward the documents (to the Ombudsman) which Greenpeace has been denied request to gain right to access to." This includes the oil spill response plan.

People have responded to Greenpeace’s call for more pressure on Cairn. More than 50,000 have asked Cairn to publish its plan. So far, Cairn has refused.

Greenpeace is sending messages to Cairn through the polar bears occupying the offices since Cairn blocked email messages in the past. The polar bears will use pens and Post-It notes to put messages from the public where Cairn can’t fail to see them: on computer monitors, on desks, on notice boards and on office walls.

Each message will be hand written by a polar bear, so it needs to be short.

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