Polar bear in Saint Petersburg called on Norway to leave Russian Arctic

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Feature story - 5 April, 2013
The famous Polar Bear who reached the Kremlin on an ice floe on 1 April has now arrived to Saint Petersburg to address the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg with a plea for help.

While Nordic countries’ leaders talk about how much they care about the marine environment at the Baltic Sea Summit, the leading Norwegian company Statoil plans to launch a risky oil drilling project in the middle of ice and storms of the Russian Barents Sea.

And the Bear’s appeal was heard! Mr Stoltenberg agreed to meet with the Bear's representative – Ivan Blokov, Greenpeace Russia Campaign Director . At the meeting in Norway’s Consulate General at 9 am he Greenpeace handed the Prime minister a letter signed so far by nearly 15,000 Russians demanding to withdraw from the oil project in the Russian Arctic that is planned jointly with the Russian oil company Rosneft.

“There were two main issues that we discussed at the meeting with Mr Stoltenberg - checks of Russian NGOs and Arctic oil drilling," said Ivan Blokov .

"I told Mr/ Stoltenberg about threats of major oil spills in the Arctic and the risk of damaging of both Norway’s and Statoil's good reputation. I also informed him about Rosneft’s responsibility for nearly a quarter of  the world's oil pipeline ruptures and the total collapse of the Russian system of environmental protection. At the end I asked him to act to prevent oil drilling in the Arctic in general, and in Russia in particularl.

The Prime Minister gave no straightforward answer. His spoke about the necessity of  following the strict standards, and that he would do his best to bring that message to the Russian authorities. My personal feeling was that he listened attentively, and there is still a hope that the change can be made”.

The Polar Bear was happy that his letter was delivered, and went for a walk along Nevsky Prospect calling on the passers by to support the 'Arctic Not For Sale!' initiative In just four days about 15,000 Russians have sent online letters to Norwegian Prime Minister. We ask you to continue sending these  letters at least until the Statoil shareholders meeting on May 14 when the decision on the joint Arctic venture with Rosneft will be made.

Followed by curious citizen and journalists he passed Statoil’s office at the Fontanka river, but in half an hour the Bear was stopped by the police officers who informed him that “a walking bear is an unsanctioned demonstration”.

He was offered a ride in the Greenpeace car and continued on his way.

Stay tuned for the polar bear’s continued adventures in his voyage to protect his Arctic home from greedy oil companies!

The letter says:

Dear Jens Stoltenberg,

I am writing to you because I am concerned about the developments in the Arctic. As sea ice melts, oil companies are advancing further north and this expansion comes at the expense of natural resources and the climate.

Norway is well known for its high ecological standards and care for nature, and the state company Statoil has always been a symbol of national pride.

But recently Statoil has acquired licenses and has operations in many parts of the Arctic - outside Alaska, Greenland and Russia, in ice covered areas with extremely cold and stormy conditions. Oil drilling would not be permitted in any of these areas if Statoil were following the Norwegian regulations it abides to in Norway.

There are good reasons why oil drilling in icy waters is not allowed in Norway. When the cargo ship Godafoss ran aground outside Hvaler in 2011 it began to leak oil. The ship was two hours from Oslo, not two days from Tromsø. Nevertheless, the government was helpless. There is no technology that can deal with oil spills in ice.

In Russian Arctic waters, Statoil cooperates with Rosneft. Rosneft is known as the dirtiest oil company in the world due to its regular oil spills that have turned many areas of Siberia into zones of ecological catastrophe. The company has enormous ambitions in the Arctic, but is unable to implement them without foreign investments and technologies.

 Soft environmental and safety regulations in Russia should not be used as an opportunity for Statoil to gain profit at a lower cost then for example in Alaska, where they recently delayed their operations indefinitely.

Statoil's reputation is used to create a good, safe and clean image of Arctic oil drilling - but the truth is that there is a great risk of oil spills in sensitive areas when Statoil and Rosneft drill in these extreme Arctic conditions. Your minister of foreign affairs Mr Barth Eide has also stressed that you would not open up for drilling in ice covered oceans in Norway.

The only consistent course of action should be for Norway and Statoil to follow the same regulations in foreign countries as they would in Norway. I would therefore urge you to ensure that the Norwegian Government votes for the “No Drilling in Ice”- proposal at the Statoil AGM on the coming May 14th.

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