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Norway: “EU has no jurisdiction in the Arctic”

Oslo brushes aside the European Parliament’s Environmental Committee’s vote to enter a moratorium on Arctic oil drilling. Petroleum Minister Ola Borten Moe sees no reason to stop now, pointing to the fact that “Norway’s boundaries end almost right up at the North Pole.”

Deputy Oil and Energy Minister Per Rune Henriksen says to the newswire NTB: “ The EU has no jurisdiction in the Arctic, no member country has a Continental Shelf in the Arctic.”

In another interview on the issue with Nationen, quoted by the Foreigner, the Deputy Minister says: “The EU is free to argue what it wants, but this would almost be like us commenting on a camel operations in the Sahara, which we do not have anything to do with.”

MEPs want Arctic moratorium
BarentsObserver reported in September about the unanimous vote in the Environmental Committee of the parliament to introduce a moratorium on Arctic oil drilling. The EU is now working on new and common offshore HSE standards following the Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Norway and Russia are today the two countries in Arctic Europe that are intensifying petroleum activity in the north. Norway has several sites where test drilling take place in the Barents Sea this autumn and seismic vessels are mapping the geology under the seabed all the way north to east of Svalbard. 

Russia prepares for oil drilling at the Prirazlomnoye field in the eastern Barents Sea and has seismic vessels mapping the Kara Sea.

No relevance for Norway
While members of the European Parliament are voicing their protest against oil drilling in the north, Norwegian authorities are relaxed. The government makes it clear that it does not consider the measures by EU having relevance for Norway.

“But it’s important that we contribute our knowledge and expertise in the Arctic petroleum business, which we have been doing for over 30 years, when the European Parliament starts discussing these issues,” Deputy Minister Per Rune Henriksen says to NTB.

Drill to the North Pole
Norway’s free-spoken Petroleum and Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe told Stavanger Aftenblad in the end of August that he disagrees with environmentalists concerned about the consequences of a possible oil spill.

“It seems some think that you have to choose between drilling in the Arctic and the environment. The first well was drilled in this area more than 100 years ago. It is not a new phenomenon. We have an oil company that has a lot of experience and they have a partnership that stretches up to the High North, Ola Borten Moe said.

The Minister is meeting the challenges with optimism and now wants to open new areas for drilling in the southeastern Barents Sea next year.

“I strongly believe that we can meet these challenges together. It’s not a question of whether we can do it, but how.” He continues: “New areas will be opened up. There is no reason to stop now. Norway’s present boundaries end almost right up to the North Pole.”

Severe setback for Arctic oil
Arctic oil drilling has met a lot of setback over the last months. First was the prestigious Shtokman project in the Russian sector of the Barents Sea put on ice, Then, the drilling rig Scarabeo 8 had a listing incident while drilling at in the Norwegian sector of the Barents Sea. On the Canadian Arctic shelf, Shell announced a delay in its drilling program due to the ice-conditions.

French Total’s chief executive told the Financial Times last week that companies should not drill for oil in the Arctic because of the risk of a damaging spill.

Two weeks ago, Gazprom announced yet another year’s delay on the Prirazlomnaya drilling, Russia’s first offshore field for oil in the European part of the Arctic.

Also the Environmental Audit Committee of Britain’s House of Commons urge a halt in oil and gas drilling in the Arctic, naming it “reckless” until stronger safety measures are put in place.

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