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European Parliament Overturns Moratorium on Offshore Arctic Oil and Gas Drilling

- Common Dreams staff

Attempts by environmentalists to institute a moratorium on offshore drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic were rejected Tuesday by the European Parliament's Energy Committee.

Greenpeace activists prepare to occupy Gazprom Arctic oil platform. The EU on Tuesday rejected a moratorium on drilling in the Arctic. (Photo: Greenpeace.) The decision overturned a vote last month by the body's Environment Committee that attempted to prevent accidents such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Instead, a draft law resulting from Tuesday's vote requires drilling companies to submit hazard reports and emergency response plans to cover liabilities from any accidents, the Nunatsiaq News reported.

Licenses would only be issued if the company could prove it could afford to clean up any spill.

A final vote in December will consider a final amendment that would require states from licensing drills unless such a plan were guaranteed, The Guardian reported.

The European Union originally proposed a binding regulation, but the committee instead approved a directive, to be enforced by individual countries.

Greenpeace spokesman Joris den Blanken told EurActiv, "This vote had the fingerprints of oil lobby all over it."

Norway’s environmental group Bellona said the committee was clearly influenced by “heavy lobbyism from the petroleum industry as well as the recent intense pressure from major petroleum producing countries," according to the Nunatsiaq News.

The EU-member states will still keep “significant leeway in the implementation of the legislation,” Bellona said, adding, "It is equally disappointing that the committee did not seize the opportunity to send a clear signal regarding the developments in the Arctic, where remote and difficult conditions combined with vulnerable ecosystems could turn any oil spill into an environmental disaster."

But oil producing companies such as NOrway argued that for the EU to claim jurisdiction over the Arctic by banning drilling there "would almost be like us commenting on a camel operations in the Sahara," The Guardian reported.


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