Defending the Arctic against Oil Exploitation

Feature Story - 2011-06-07
While most people in East Asia enjoyed a long weekend holiday to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival, Greenpeace has been fighting a battle to protect the high Arctic from oil exploitation.

Greenpeace activists scale the Leiv Eriksson, an oil rig operated by Cairn Energy, to stop the oil company's dangerous drilling operations in the high Arctic

In the last two weeks, Greenpeace has confronted Cairn Energy’s plan to drill for oil in one of the Earth’s most pristine areas, 180km off the coast of Greenland. In the high Arctic, when the world is facing up to the reality of climate change, oil drilling is difficult, dangerous and irresponsible.

That’s why Greenpeace has been asking Cairn for its oil spill emergency response plan. The public has a right to see this information. An oil spill in the fragile Arctic would be especially devastating, and also difficult to clean up, given the cold waters, remote location and short 3-month period of safe oceans.

Cairn’s refusal to relase its plans is not normal and can only mean one thing – they have something to hide.

On Saturday, 18 Greenpeace activists got past a Danish warship and scaled the controversial Cairn Energy drilling rig. The activists were on board to look for the company’s oil spill response plan – a copy of which should normally be kept aboard the rig. However, no plan was forthcoming.

Just before being arrested, Greenpeace oil campaigner Ben Ayliffe radioed the nearby Greenpeace ship Esperanza from the oil rig:

“We have met with the drill manager and requested a copy of the oil spill plan, which we assume he has on board, yet once again we have been refused even sight of it. What is Cairn Energy trying to hide? We have phoned, written, faxed, emailed and now even paid a visit to the rig to get a plan that should be in the public domain and should be subject to independent verification and public scrutiny."

Cairn Energy is seeking a legal injunction to stop us from protesting against its Arctic deep water-drilling rigs, as well as suing us for millions of euros in fines.

But yesterday a judge in Amsterdam, home to the Greenpeace head office, surprised the company by asking it to release the oil spill plan.

The judge further expressed concern about how Cairn would pay for any oil spill clean-up and was distinctly unimpressed with Cairn’s legal team reassuring him that they had a cap on their exposure. He said this was about the environmental impact and not the company’s finances.

It’s a reasonable request – wanting to see a company’s oil spill response plan. It’s obvious why Cairn won’t tell the world how it would clean up an oil spill on the scale of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and that’s because it can’t be done. Experts say the freezing temperatures and remote location mean a deep water blow-out in this stunning pristine environment would be an irreversible disaster.

We have to draw a line in the ice and stop the Arctic oil rush. And you can help us.

Write to Cairn Energy’s CEO today to demand to see their Greenland oil spill response plan.