The People Versus Arctic Oil: The Case That Could Stop Arctic Drilling

by Sune Scheller

October 24, 2016

A new wave of oil drilling threatens the Arctic, but the fight back is already underway. Activists just filed a lawsuit that could stop the expansion of the reckless oil industry into the Arctic — but we need your help.

Audrey vs The Machine in Pacific Ocean

As the Arctic melts, oil companies are moving in to drill for more oil. Next year, the Norwegian-owned oil company Statoil will drill further north than ever. Corporations like Chevron and ConocoPhillips are set to follow — unless we stop all of them. An unprecedented case was filed last week that could do just that.

This case — The People Versus Arctic Oil — is about holding back the oil industry at this final frontier, it’s about protecting the beautiful Arctic, and it’s about people stepping up to hold governments accountable. If we win, millions of barrels of oil could be kept in the ground. We will argue in court that we must take action to keep the Paris climate agreement on track, and we will invoke Norway’s constitutional right to a healthy and safe environment for future generations.

The largest network of young environmentalists in Norway, Nature and Youth, have partnered with Greenpeace. Together, we are the co-plaintiffs. The defendants are the Norwegian government, which granted 13 oil companies licenses to drill in the Arctic. The case will be heard in Oslo, but the eyes of the world will be watching.

Already, statements of solidarity and offers of help have come from around the world, including from scientists, lawyers and activists who themselves have incredible stories about battling the oil industry at the front lines. Some of the most respected leaders in the struggle against the oil industry have traveled to Oslo to witness the moment the case was filed. We are calling these supporters ‘friends of the case.’

Meet the Friends of the Case

Audrey Siegl

Audrey Siegl is a First Nations artist and activist from Canada who stood in the way of Shell’s oil rig in 2015 as it headed to the Arctic. She traveled to Shell’s headquarters in London in September 2015 with a message of resistance, following in the footsteps of her First Nations ancestors who traveled to London 100 years ago to demand Indigenous rights.

Niillas Beaska

Niillas Beaska is Sámi politician and traditional fisherman from Deatnu/Tana, Sápmi. He’s a member of the Sámi Parliament, and was elected the Head of the Norwegian Saami Association in 2014. Niillas has long campaigned against exploitation and extraction activities in the Sámi lands and advocated for the defense of nature in the Sámi area.

Bunna Lawrie

Bunna Lawrie is an elder, medicine man, and whale songman from the Mirning Tribe on the Nullarbor Plains in South Australia. The Nullarbor Plains surround the Great Australian Bight, the place of the White Whale Jeedara. Bunna has been a leading activist against BP and Statoil’s plans to drill for oil in the pristine whale sanctuary off the Great Australian Bight — plans that have now been dropped.

Bunna is in Oslo to do what he can to make sure that Statoil does the same in the Arctic.

Ivan Ivanov

The People vs Arctic Oil: Historic Lawsuit against Arctic Oil in Oslo

Ivan Ivanoc is from the Komi Republic in Russia, the site of multiple terrible oil spills by companies like Lukoil, which has been granted licences in Norway’s waters. He is an active blogger on oil spill issues and an observer on official commissions responsible for monitoring oil spills. Ivan is not Indigenous, but he is a member of the Save the Pechora Committee, which has many members who are Indigenous Komi peoples and campaigned since 1989 in territory of Komi people in the Pechora River basin.

James Hansen

Portrait of James Hansen with grand doughter Sophie Kivlehan

James Hansen is an American activist, climate scientist, and professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. He is best known for his research in climatology, his 1988 Congressional testimony on climate change that helped raise broad awareness of global warming, and his advocacy of action to avoid dangerous climate change.

Jostein Gaarder

Jostein Gaarder is a philosopher, intellectual, novelist, and author of “Sophie’s World,” which has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide. He has been involved in the promotion of sustainable development for nearly two decades. He established the Sophie Prize in 1997, an international award bestowed on foundations and individuals concerned with the environment.

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben is an author, environmentalist, and activist. In 1988 he wrote “The End of Nature,” the first book for a common audience about global warming. He is a co-founder and Senior Advisor at, an international climate campaign that works in 188 countries around the world.

Join the Fight Against Arctic Oil Drilling

If you believe this case matters to everyone everywhere please add your name here, and we will submit your name with thousands of others to the court. Together, we can be the generation that ends Arctic oil.

In this case, the decision we are challenging is known as the Norwegian ‘23rd licensing round’ and came just months after the international climate deal was made in Paris, where the Norwegian government had been a champion of strong climate goals. In fact, the country has one of the most environmentally progressive constitutions in the world, and it was updated and strengthened as recently as 2014.

But this case isn’t just about Norway — it raises some of the most pertinent questions of our time. If you want to find out more about the legal arguments we’ll be making in court, read the full document that was filed last week.

This is urgent — Statoil wants to drill five to seven new exploratory Arctic oil wells next year. This is a bold case to stop them. We are using untested law, but it just might work, and we owe it to future generations and the Arctic to try.

To have the best chance possible of stopping Arctic oil, we need as many voices as possible. Add yours today!

By Sune Scheller

Sune Scheller is an Arctic campaigner with Greenpeace Nordic.

We Need Your Voice. Join Us!

Want to learn more about tax-deductible giving, donating stock and estate planning?

Visit Greenpeace Fund, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable entity created to increase public awareness and understanding of environmental issues through research, the media and educational programs.