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Arctic Nations' Oil Spill Plans Too Vague, Say Environmentalists

Environment  (tags: climate, climate-change, climatechange, destruction, conservation, energy, environment, globalwarming, globalwarming, habitatdestruction, habitat, oceans, nature, pollution, protection, Sustainabililty, water, weather, wildlife, world )

- 1959 days ago -
A draft document by the Arctic Council fails to define liability for accidents in an icy region opening up due to global warming

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JL A (281)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 8:42 am

Arctic nations' oil spill plans too vague, say environmentalists

A draft document by the Arctic Council fails to define liability for accidents in an icy region opening up due to global warming

Reuters, Monday 4 February 2013 05.19 EST

Shell Oil Arctic oil drilling rig Kulluk
Global warming is making the Arctic region more accessible to shipping, mining and oil exploration. Photograph: Ho/AFP/Getty Images

Arctic nations' plans to start co-operating over oil spills are vague and fail to define companies' liability for any accidents in an icy region opening up due to global warming, environmentalists said on Monday.

A 21-page document by the eight-nation Arctic Council, seen by Reuters and due to be approved in May, says countries in the region "shall maintain a national system for responding promptly and effectively to oil pollution incidents."

It does not say what that means in terms of staff, ships, clean-up equipment or corporate liability in a remote region that the US Geological Survey estimates has 13% of the world's undiscovered oil and 30% of its undiscovered gas.

The countries have drafted the document as companies including Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips, Lukoil and Statoil are looking north for oil despite high costs and risks. Shell's Kulluk oil rig ran aground in Alaska on 31 December in near hurricane conditions.

"The document doesn't get to grips with the risks of a spill in a meaningful way," said Ruth Davis of Greenpeace, which passed the document to Reuters. Officials confirmed the text was genuine.

Greenpeace, which wants the Arctic to be off-limits to drilling, said it was "so vaguely written as to have very little practical value in increasing the level of preparedness."

"We should be far beyond this rudimentary document," echoed Rick Steiner, an environmental consultant and former professor at the University of Alaska often critical of the oil industry. He said the council should put more stress on preventing spills.

The Arctic Council comprising the United States, Russia, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland and Denmark including Greenland sees co-operation as big progress for the region, where sea ice shrank to a record low in the summer of 2012.

"There will be a lot of improvements compared to today quite simply by making it much easier for countries in the Arctic to help each other when needed," said Karsten Klepsvik, polar expert at Norway's foreign ministry until end-2012.

The document, for instance, sets up 24-hour emergency contacts in the eight nations, seeks national rules to allow quick transport of clean-up equipment across maritime borders, better monitoring and joint training exercises.

Environment ministers from the Arctic Council will meet in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden, on 5-6 February to discuss the draft.

The Arctic document makes clear it is non-binding, except for repayment of costs when one country helps another. It says it is "subject to the capabilities of the parties and the availability of relevant resources."

Global warming is making the Arctic region more accessible to shipping, mining and oil exploration. Oil spills could be extremely hard to clean up, perhaps trapped in or under ice that can be carried across international boundaries by ocean currents and winds.

In 2011, Arctic Council foreign ministers including outgoing US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, agreed a plan for search and rescue a prelude to harder work on defining rules for oil and gas.

The document says it will apply a general principle that the polluter pays, but does not define corporate liability. Steiner said Arctic-wide unlimited liability would make companies and insurers more cautious.

"Greenland suggested that we should include a system of liability in the agreement. There was no agreement on this," Klepsvik said. "We are a consensus body. We realised that it would take years and years to reach a conclusion" on liability.

And he said big oil companies showed they do pay for damage. BP had paid $23bn in costs and claims by late 2012 after its 2010 blow-out in the Gulf, the worst offshore spill in US history.

Exxon Mobil says it paid more than $4.3bn after the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground just south of the Arctic in 1989, spilling more than 250,000 barrels.

Kit B (276)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 8:56 am

We have long ago surrendered power to the Oil, Gas, Coal and other polluters of planet earth. We do not need them, we most certainly do not need the damages to our earth they most intentionally create. Yet we remain ever loyal subjects to the their demands. For those who actually want to clean up this messy, highly polluted planet, and with that reduce cancer and other diseases given us by these mega - internationalized corporate entities, fight back.

Don't get it? They make money with allowing these spills. It would cost them up to 5% of yearly profits to make the operations run well, but that has long ago become irrelevant, just as your health and well being is totally irrelevant. We do have alternatives, we do have access all over the planet to alternative forms of fuel.

. (0)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 9:54 am
Yep and the Arctic will become as polluted as the North Sea. Break out the Correxit.

JL A (281)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 10:09 am
Thanks Kit and Michael for connecting the dots on the money trail explaining this story! Unfortunately I'm told it is too soon to send you stars.

Autumn S (151)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 11:04 am

David C (129)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 12:54 pm
of course, they're vague when you don't have any that will work

JL A (281)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 1:18 pm
Too true Dave!
You are welcome Autumn.

Melania P (122)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 2:24 pm
The drilling in the Arctic should be just like an "impossible, prohibited plan". Period!

JL A (281)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 3:11 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Melania because you have done so within the last week.

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 3:17 pm
We need to FORCE those to confess and write it up clearly that they HAVE NO REMEDY and REFUSE to take LIABILITY !

JL A (281)
Tuesday February 5, 2013, 4:00 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Angelika because you have done so within the last week.

Robert O (12)
Wednesday February 6, 2013, 12:16 am
Agreed. Thanks.

Giana Peranio-paz (398)
Wednesday February 6, 2013, 12:50 am
No drilling in the Arctic and that is that, the future is more important than satisfying present needs!

Care member (1)
Wednesday February 6, 2013, 1:21 am

Pogle S (88)
Wednesday February 6, 2013, 2:18 am
It's sad but I believe that they are deliberately vague to avoid any real responsibility to the planet. All they care about is the bottom line and shareholder enrichment. Consumers of their products are in reality just as irresponsible as these polluters.

Hemp if legal would help us ameliorate the inevitable despoliation of our beautiful planet we call home.

Visit site

For centuries, Hemp oil was used as lamp oil. It began to be phased out in America in the 1870s when petroleum was introduced.

Today, hemp oil can be used to create biofuels to replace gasoline for diesel engines. Unlike fossil fuels, biofuels are renewable and produce less of the greenhouse gas carbon monoxide.

Ro H (0)
Wednesday February 6, 2013, 5:01 am

Anna M (18)
Wednesday February 6, 2013, 5:58 am
The real price of anything is
the amount of life exchanged for it.
So the real question is:
How many lives per gallon?

JL A (281)
Wednesday February 6, 2013, 7:09 am
You are welcome Robert and Ro.
You cannot currently send a star to Giana because you have done so within the last week.

Past Member (0)
Wednesday February 6, 2013, 9:41 am
Oil spills are pretty annoying.

JL A (281)
Wednesday February 6, 2013, 11:07 am
You cannot currently send a star to Robby because you have done so within the last week.

Lynn S (235)
Saturday February 9, 2013, 12:50 am
This reminds me of what is happening with the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. Attorneys for the Province of BC have asked Enbridge for specifics of spill clean up both on land and at sea along the BC coast. Enbridge has refused to provide the information until they have the pipeline approval. But the Province needs the information in order to proceed with the pipeline application. Standoff with the oceans, wildlife and people as hostages.

In my opinion, Enbridge has no idea what they would do in the case of a spill. And that sounds just like this Arctic drilling debacle --- vague because they have no idea what they'd do. Vague because then they figure they can't be held accountable. An vagueness means more fingerpointing and less cleanup.


JL A (281)
Saturday February 9, 2013, 8:09 am
Excellent analysis Lynn--and apt comparison! You cannot currently send a star to Lynn because you have done so within the last week.
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