Over the past few weeks we’ve been campaigning to stop risky oil drilling in the Arctic – by taking direct action up here off the Greenland coast and by shining a light on Cairn Energy’s failure to publish its oil spill response plan. We’ve appealed to the courts and to the Greenlandic Government, and our activists have twice prevented drilling.

But Cairn has steadfastly refused even to make its oil spill plan public. 

When we took direct action to stop Cairn drilling in the Arctic we prevented the rig operating for almost 5 days – something Cairn claims costs them $4 million per day. The oil company responded by filing a very aggressive legal summons against Greenpeace International. It asked for an injunction preventing us taking any further action against Cairn oil rigs, and also asking that we be fined 2 Million euros for every further day we prevented drilling.

Yesterday the Amsterdam court granted the injunction but in a far weaker form than Cairn was asking for. Rather than 2 million per day, the judge set the bar at 50 thousand euros per day. That’s still a lot of money but nevertheless shows that the court is not entirely sympathetic to Cairn’s oily aspirations.

What was even more interesting is the statement the judge made with the ruling. Being an Amsterdam court the statement was in Dutch but we have translated the key passage.

We think it’s a remarkable indictment of Cairn’s plans – given the usual nature of judicial comments in cases like these.

Here’s a translation of what he said:

…it must be conceded to Greenpeace that the oil disaster which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico showed the great risk of drilling at great depths. Capricorn (the Cairn front company bringing the case) has not disputed that if a similar scenario would develop on the drilling locations at issue, it would be very difficult due to the climactic circumstances in the area, which permit navigation for only a few months a year due to the formation of ice, to stem an oil spill.

A leak of this kind could indeed have major consequences for humans, wildlife and the environment in a large region. It is therefore evident that it is also in the interests of many who are not directly involved with the drilling that maximum safety is observed during the drilling including that there are plans and operational possibilities in place to address a possible incident of this kind. In that sense Greenpeace serves a general public interest with its call for attention to the risks of the drills.

The injunction judge has taken note of the fact that Capricorn is not willing to publish its oil spill plan.

The judge didn’t have to say any of that, but his comments go to the heart of the reason we’re here. You can’t clean up an Arctic oil spill – that’s what the experts have been saying, and it appears the judge agrees with them.


Photo: (C) GREENPEACE / Jiri Rezac