WWF calls for halt to offshore drilling in the Arctic

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WWF says drilling should be stopped until disasters can be prevented (WWF)

Wed, 16 Jun 2010 12:00p.m. By Dan Satherley -Conservation group WWF has called for a suspension of oil drilling in the Arctic until the region can “deal with the risks”.

Representatives of the world’s northernmost countries are meeting this week in Vorkuta, Russia, to discuss the hot-button issue in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

Newly-implemented guidelines do not go far enough according to WWF, which says The Arctic Council needs to bring a halt to drilling altogether.

“It is time for the Arctic states to recognise that offshore oil drilling with current technology and response capability poses unacceptable risks in the Arctic,” says Aleksey Knizhnikov, WWF Russia.

“Norway and the United States have already taken the first step, by putting off any further Arctic offshore drilling until an investigation into the Gulf disaster is over.”

Despite the delay, Norway still plans to open up further territory for oil exploration, as does Russia and Denmark (in its Greenland territory).

WWF Australia’s Greg Bourne, an ex-BP manager, says that despite the best technology available, BP has been unable to stop oil gushing into the Atlantic.

“To even conceive of being able to control a similar event in the Arctic would be a triumph of hope over experience and reason,” he says. “The consequences of such an event in the cold climate would lead to a persistence of ecological damage over many decades.”

Here in New Zealand, Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee says New Zealand’s petroleum sector could expand “tenfold” with offshore drilling. Earlier this month, a permit was issued to Brazilian company Petrobras.

Both WWF and the Green Party have called for a moratorium on offshore drilling in New Zealand until it’s known how to prevent a Deepwater Horizon-style event here. Earlier this month, the Government announced a review of New Zealand’s ability to cope with an offshore oil disaster, but not until after the Petrobras announcement.

“Whilst a review is welcome, the Government is clearly putting economic development before consideration of the risks to the environment in issuing a new permit for oil exploration to Petrobras,” said WWF NZ’s Chris Howe.

“WWF believes there should be a moratorium granted on all new oil and gas exploration in New Zealand waters, at least until the review is complete.”

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