EU sets limits on oil drilling under extreme conditions

Press release - May 21, 2013
Brussels – Greenpeace has cautiously welcomed the support of the European Parliament in its plenary vote today for a new EU law on oil and gas offshore drilling. The law will go some way to ensuring that oil companies limit drilling in harsh conditions such as those that exist in the Arctic, where cleaning up an oil spill is impossible; however long phase-in periods for existing operations leave room for concern.

The new law obliges oil companies to assess the ability to clean up an oil spill in difficult conditions, such as prolonged darkness, ice cover or rough seas, where standard response procedures cannot be used. The agreement also calls for international political action to promote higher standards on prevention, preparedness and response to Arctic oil pollution.

Joris den Blanken, Greenpeace EU spokesperson on the issue:

“This law is a first step towards preventing oil companies from drilling in European waters where clean-up operations would be extremely difficult. EU leaders must now work to set an international ban on Arctic oil drilling, where any effective response to an oil spill is impossible.”

Besides the clear progress on oil spill response requirements, the directive is still weak and would allow discrepancies in the way different EU countries implemented their safety regimes. Greenpeace also regrets that compensation for oil spill damages for affected fishermen or tourism operators is not included in the law, and that existing oil rigs will have a full five years before they must comply with the new rules.

EU governments are now expected to rubberstamp the directive and to implement it when it enters into force.  Greenpeace urges EU governments to implement this law in the strictest possible manner, setting in place a real safety regime.


Joris den
Blanken – Greenpeace EU climate policy director: +32 (0)476 961375 (mobile),

Ed Davitt – Greenpeace EU communications officer: +32 (0)476 988584 (mobile),


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Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.