Arctic oil company wields legal hammer against Greenpeace

Press release - 2 June, 2011
Greenland, Thursday, 2 June 2011 – The oil company behind plans for dangerous deep water drilling in the Arctic and whose rig was occupied by activists for the last four days have filed legal papers against Greenpeace, claiming delays in drilling could cost the company up to USD4 million a day.

Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy is seeking an injunction and fines of 2 million Euros for every further day the campaigners succeed in stopping drilling. The claim will be heard in a Dutch court on Monday.

Last night two protesters were removed from a survival pod that had been suspended from the underside of the 53,000 tonne Leiv Eiriksson oil rig, 180 km off the coast of Greenland at 3am on Sunday morning. By hanging near the so-called moon pool where the drill-bit would normally be sunk, the activists prevented the rig from drilling. They were arrested just before midnight last night, local time, and taken to the Greenland capital of Nuuk. The Greenpeace ship Esperanza remains just outside the 500m exclusion zone, imposed by a Danish navy warship, around the drill site.

Oil campaigner Ben Ayliffe is on board the Esperanza, from where he watched last night’s operation to remove the pod and its inhabitants. Today he said:

“Since we started our occupation Cairn Energy have hid behind the Greenland government and the Danish Navy, and now it’s trying to use the Dutch courts to stop us shining a light on its dangerous deep water drilling operation in the Arctic. Cairn can hire all the lawyers it likes, but it can’t hide the huge risks it’s taking with this beautiful and fragile environment, or cover up the threat to the economy of Greenland, which is so reliant on fishing. Cairn is trying to use a legal hammer to shut down our campaign to kick the oil companies out of the Arctic, but we’ll challenge Cairn and its lawyers every step of way.”

This morning the company claimed to media, including the BBC, that the four-day occupation has had ‘no impact on its schedule’, but in the court documents the company says: “The defendants are preventing the exploitation of the platform. All delay of the platforms during its journey to the respective drilling locations and each hindrance during the drilling activities will lead to delay of the operations. Plaintiffs estimate the damage resulting from delay to those drilling activities at least USD 4 million per day. The urgent character of the plaintiffs' demand thus speaks for itself."

Cairn is also seeking fines against Greenpeace of 2 million Euros a day for every day its operations are affected after Monday, if the injunction is granted by a judge in Amsterdam (the Esperanza – from which the occupation was launched – is a Dutch-registered vessel.) The legal summons asks the judge to: “… order defendants to cease all unlawful activities within one hour of handing down the judgment in this matter against the platforms and to order their employees, their aids or their sympathisers to cease all unlawful activities against the platforms, to allow the safe and unhindered exploitation of the platforms, at a penalty of EUR 2,000,000 for each day or part thereof during which defendants are not complying with this order.”

Shortly before their arrest the Greenpeace climbers used a satellite telephone to call Cairn Energy and asked them to publish their oil spill response plan. Despite repeated requests Cairn has refused to make the document public, while claiming to follow stringent safety standards that require the publication of such a plan.

Shares in Cairn fell sharply on Tuesday when London traders returned after the long weekend – with media reports attributing the price drop to the presence of the Greenpeace pod – and continued to fall as the week went on (1). 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. ENDS

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Notes:

(1) Cairn share price tumble:

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/markets/article-23955081-cairn-catches-a-cold-in-wake-of-arctic-rig-stunt-by-greenpeace.do