Dutch judge calls on oil company to release secret arctic oil spill plan

Press release - 6 June, 2011
Amsterdam, 6 June 2011.– A Judge turned the tables on an oil company today by asking it to release its secret Arctic Oil Spill Response Plan instead of granting it the multi million euro injunction it was seeking to end Greenpeace protests.

Cairn Energy was seeking an injunction to prevent Greenpeace from protesting against its Arctic deep water drilling rigs, but the judge surprised the company by asking it to publish the plan, which has been at the centre of a campaign of direct action 180km off the coast of Greenland.

Eighteen Greenpeace activists are currently in jail in Greenland after scaling the rig on Saturday to demand the plan be made public.

The Judge will make a final ruling on the injunction on Wednesday evening. After he asked for the release of the secret oil spill plan saying that the public concerns of the safety of the drilling was real, Cairn’s lawyers said they could not as this was against the wishes of the Greenlandic authorities. Independent legal advice obtained by Greenpeace (1) shows that there is no such impediment to the plan’s publication.

The judge further expressed concern about how Cairn would pay for any oil spill clean up and was distinctly unimpressed with Cairn’s legal team reassuring him that they had a cap on their exposure. He said this was about the environmental impact and not the companies finances.

Greenpeace International Climate and Energy Campaign Director, Tzeporah Berman was in the court room and said:

“Now that the courts are demanding the secret oil spill response plan be placed in the public domain where it can be scrutinised and verified, Cairn should cease drilling operations immediately.

"Cairn do not need to wait for the final ruling to release their secret spill plan. They can do it now. Their claim in court that they cannot because Greenland is preventing it is entirely bogus. Every minute this cowboy oil company is allowed to drill in the Arctic poses an unacceptable threat to the pristine environment in search for oil we cannot afford to burn.

“Cairn took a beating in the court room today trying to silence peaceful protest and hide from public scrutiny. The people of Greenland should be very worried about the kind of people who are drilling for oil off their coast. And their investors should be asking themselves just what it is that no one is being allowed to see and how big a risks they are exposing themselves to.”

The judge’s comments in court represent a huge victory for 18 Greenpeace activists in jail in Greenland after they scaled Cairn Arctic drill rig on Saturday to demand a copy of the spill plan.

This morning Greenpeace submitted an official complaint to the ombudsman of the Inartsisartut (the Greenland parliament). 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. ENDS

# video and stills available

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, , +31 629001152
  • Greenpeace Video Desk,   +31 6 24 94 10 63


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: