Norwegian Environment Agency suspends key Arctic oil project following Greenpeace complaint

Nyhet - 26 mai, 2014
Norwegian Environment Agency has suspended Statoil's drilling programme in the Norwegian Arctic following a complaint from Greenpeace. Greenpeace ship Esperanza is now squatting in Statoil's planned drill site, to ensure they respect the Agency's decision.

Greenpeace ship Esperanza passing by Statoil's rig on its way North.
Statoil will now be forced to wait until the Norwegian Minister of Environment Tine Sundtoft has fully examined Greenpeace's complaint before it can begin to start drilling the world's most northerly well in the Hoop-area of the Barent’s sea.

“It's now up to the environmental minister to save Bear Island, and stop Statoil's risky drill plans”, says Erlend Tellnes, Arctic Campaigner in Greenpeace.

More than 30 000 people have in just a few days sent a letter to Norway's environmental minister Tine Sundtoft, telling her to stop Statoil's risky drill plans and protect Bear Island.

Greenpeace lodged a complaint based on the proximity of Statoil's drilling project to the ice edge and the Bear Island nature reserve, the Norwegian Environment Agency has now replied.

Yet Statoil has not stopped transporting its rig into position. Greenpeace ship Esperanza is therefore currently squatting in the place of Statoil's drill site, to ensure that Statoil respects the Environmental Agency's decision.

“This area would not have been opened to the oil industry if we had the information we have now. The Norwegian Polar Institute's new scientific definition of the ice edge revealed that at its closest, the ice edge is just 25 kilometres away from the drill site. Statoil's own estimates show that an oil spill could reach the bird cliffs at Bear Island nature reserve in less than a week. This is information the minister will have to take into account when she decides if Statoil should be allowed to drill”, says Erlend Tellnes.

A threat to Bear Island
Greenpeace has long warned that Statoil's drill plans in the controversial Hoop-area are a threat to Bear Island. Bear Island is a nature reserve, one of the few Arctic nature reserves recognized by the Arctic Council.

In addition to the nature reserve, extended 12 nautical miles around the island, there is a ban on oil drilling in a 65 km zone around the island. This zone, however, has proved insufficient, as Statoil's new models show that an oil spill from their Apollo well, 175 km from Bear Island, can reach Bear Island in less than a week.

Bear Island is home to one of the largest sea bird colonies on the Northern hemisphere, with large populations of species such as guillemot and the black-legged kittiwake, both of which are listed as endangered on the Norwegian Red List. The island is also home to polar foxes, a number of whale and seal species, as well as the occasional polar bear in winter.

Read more: background briefing on Statoil's drill plans and Bear Island