Amsterdam, 9 June 2011 – A Dutch judge today granted an injunction imposing substantial fines against Greenpeace if the organisation’s activists continue stopping drilling on a controversial Arctic oil rig.
While the Judge granted the injunction, he significantly reduced the level of the penalties sought from Euro2 million per ‘infraction’ to Euro50,000 up to a limit of Euro1 million. This applies to any attempt by Greenpeace to go within 500 meters of the two deepsea drilling rigs currently operating in very deep water some 180 km off the coast of Greenland.
Importantly, in reaching the decision the Judge explicitly referred to Cairns refusal to release its Oil Spill response Plan.
Greenpeace reacted to the ruling by renewing its demand that the public be allowed to see Cairn Energy’s Arctic oil spill response plan, which has been at the centre of a six-week campaign of direct action that has seen 20 people jailed in Greenland.
Cairn operates the 53,000 tonne Leiv Eiriksson rig, which Greenpeace activists prevented from drilling for five days last week – first by hanging a survival pod from its underside, then by scaling the rig and demanding the spill plan be made public. A series of activities which the Judge observed had served “a general public interest with its call for attention to the risks of the drilling.”
The 18 Greenpeace activists who scaled the rig on Saturday to demand the plan be made public are still in jail in Greenland.
Earlier this week the Judge during the injunction case asked Cairn why it had not released the secret oil spill plan, saying that public concerns over the safety of the drilling were legitimate. Cairn is still failing to publish the plan, with the company’s lawyers claiming that release of the oil spill plan is not permitted by the Greenlandic authorities. But that claim is refuted by independent legal advice obtained by Greenpeace (1) showing that there is no such impediment to the plan’s publication.
Ben Stewart is an oil campaigner on board the Greenpeace ship Esperanza near the positioned near the Leiv Eiriksson drilling rig said:
“This ruling won’t stop us demanding Cairn Energy’s missing oil spill clean-up plan. They’re keeping it secret because publishing it would show in black and white what all the experts have been saying, that you can’t clean up an Arctic oil spill. They can hire all the lawyers in the world, but they won’t stop our campaign to kick the oil companies out of the Arctic. This is one of the defining environmental battles of our age, and it’s one we’re going to win.”
He continued: “The oil companies are only looking to move into the Arctic because the ice cap is melting due to climate change. They look at the retreating ice and they see it as a chance to move their rigs in and drill for the fossil fuels that caused the melting in the first place. It’s madness.”
Greenpeace this week submitted an official complaint to the ombudsman of the Inartsisartut (the Greenland parliament). (2) The complaint details how Greenpeace has applied for 17 different documents but been given access to only two. Greenland’s Bureau of Mineral and Petroleum refuses to disclose a series of other documents – including Cairn’s oil spill response plan; papers detailing how Cairn will pay for a clean up operation if a spill occurs; and a series of technical reports that would shed light on the risky nature of Arctic oil drilling.
For more information contact:
• Greenpeace International 24-hour press desk on +31 20 718 2470
• Contact the Greenpeace ship Esperanza on +47 5140 7986 / 7 / 8
• Greenpeace Picture Desk, firstname.lastname@example.org, +31 629001152
• Greenpeace Video Desk, +31 6 24 94 10 63
2) An English translation of the ombudsman complaint will be available shortly at www.greenpeace.org/arctic the original Danish version can be found at http://www.greenpeace.org/denmark/Global/denmark/Arktis/dokumenter/Klage%20til%20Gr%c3%b8nlands%20ombudsmand.pdf
The Leiv Eiriksson is one of just two drilling vessels operating off the coast of Greenland. The world's oil giants are watching Cairn’s rig with great interest. If it strikes oil this summer Exxon, Chevron and the other big oil companies (which have already bought up Greenland licenses) will begin drilling in the area and the Arctic oil rush will be on.
Private UK government documents revealed last month show that experts believe an Arctic spill would be ‘near impossible’ to clean up: