Dozens of Activists invade headquarters of Arctic oil drillers

Campaigners dressed in polar bear outfits take direct action to uncover secret spill plan documents

Press release - 18 July, 2011
Edinburgh, 18th July 2011 - Over 60 environmental activists, more than half of them in polar bear costumes, this morning invaded the international headquarters of the controversial Edinburgh-based oil company Cairn Energy. (1) The company is currently doing risky deep-water oil drilling in the Arctic waters off Greenland and, breaking with industry norms, is refusing to publish its oil spill response plans. (2)

At 8.15am the volunteers from the environmental group Greenpeace UK entered Cairn's offices to search for a copy of the company's secret oil spill plans. These papers detail how the company would respond if they caused an oil spill in the region's pristine environment, which is home to numerous important animals like polar bears, narwhals and walruses.

Other activists inside the office are handing leaflets to the hundreds of Cairn Energy staff based there, which explain how they can become whistleblowers and put the secret spill documents in the public domain.

Greenpeace International spokesperson Mike Townsley , said: "The Arctic is a priceless part of the global commons and cowboy oil companies like Cairn energy cannot be allowed to hide their risky arctic oil drilling business from public scrutiny. They are hiding this document because they know there is no way to clean up a major oil spill from deep water drilling in the arctic. All you have to do is look at the Gulf of Mexico disaster and translate that to the remote arctic to know that cleaning up an oil spill would be impossible. Public scrutiny would expose both the sham of a clean up plan and destroy investor confidence."

Townsley continued: "We will not stop, the arctic is too important. The climate is too important. We have alternatives. There is no need for deep water drilling in the Arctic, the only ones who benefit are the oil companies shareholders and the politicians who are beholden to them."


Earlier this year activists from Greenpeace, including the organisation's international executive director Kumi Naidoo, repeatedly boarded Cairn Energy's oil rig, Leiv Eirikisson, in the freezing Arctic waters off Greenland in an attempt to get hold of Cairn's spill response plan and to prevent drilling from going ahead. (3) Many of these activists spent time in jail on Greenland, and Cairn Energy eventually took legal action to try and stop further protests through the force of an injunction. (4)

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 (5) showing that there is no such impediment to the plan's publication.

Following a Greenpeace complaint (6) Greenland's Ombudsman requested the Bureau of Mineral and Petroleum (BMP) "to forward the documents (to the Ombudsman) which Greenpeace has been denied request to gain right to access to." This includes the oil spill response plan. (7)

 

ENDS

# video and stills available For more information contact: o Greenpeace International 24-hour press desk on +31 20 718 2470 o Greenpeace Picture Desk, , +31 629001152 o Greenpeace Video Desk, , +31 634738790

Notes:

(1)    For a briefing on Cairn Energy: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/reports/CairnEnergy/
(2)    For a briefing on Arctic oil drilling: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/reports/ArcticBriefing/
(3)    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jun/17/greenpeace-kumi-naidoo-arrest-oil-rig?intcmp=239
(4)    http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/06/09/uk-cairn-idUKTRE7584LS20110609
(5) http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/-Legal-assessment-of-the-extent-to-which-Greenlandic-law-prevents-Cairn-Energy-publishing-its-oil-Spill-Response-Plan/
(6)    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.
http://www.greenpeace.org/denmark/Global/denmark/Arktis/dokumenter/Klage%20til%20Gr%c3%b8nlands%20ombudsmand.pdf
(7)    http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/climate/2011/GL%20ombudsman%20-%20en%20version.pdf
Also see : http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/climate/confidential-foreign-office-documents-arctic-oil-spill-all-impossible-clear-20110524