Greenland publishes Cairn spill plans

The Greenland government has published oil spill contingency plans for controversial drilling firm Cairn Energy after repeated calls for such action from environmental activists.

Following several attempts by Greenpeace campaigners to disrupt the British company’s drilling projects in the Arctic, officials say they have finally been able to release the plans as the, “options for countering sabotage actions have improved”.

As Shell estimated that hundreds of tonnes of its oil may have leaked into the North Sea this week, Greenland said it previously had to keep Cairn’s contingency plans secret due to the “large number of unlawful actions aimed at the safety measures at oil exploration”. The government said in a statement that, “The opinion has been that it would be possible to launch even more attacks against safety if the plans were presented openly.”

However, Greenpeace, which has targeted Cairn a number of times over the past year but has since been slapped with a court injunction from Denmark, branded the plans as “spin”.

Campaigner Ben Ayliffe said, “Cairn never wanted to release this document, they were forced to by international outrage from tens of thousands of people who bombarded them with emails. In a classic PR move they’ve now published the plan late in the day, European time. Our experts will now analyse it and fully expect it to confirm what the UK government said in private documents, that an Arctic spill would be ‘near impossible’ to clean up.”

Following the decision to implement a five kilometre exclusion zone around drilling operations, Greenlandic minister for industry, Ove Karl Berthelsen, said, “The government and the Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum (BMP) have always wanted to make the plans available to the people of Greenland. We had reasonable concerns, however, that the balance between transparency of information and the possible impact on safe operations was outweighed by the regular violation of safety procedures.

“We are now confident that the security of operations is better protected to the extent that we now feel able to provide people in Greenland with access to as much information as possible about our country’s search for hydrocarbons,” Berthelsen added.

Cairn CEO Simon Thomson said he is pleased with the decision.”Throughout our operations globally and including offshore Greenland, we are focused on safety, both in terms of people and the environment,” Thomson said. “In the unlikely event of a serious incident, such as an oil spill, we believe we have put in place a thorough and robust contingency plan,” he added.

(Photos: Anders Peter Amsnæs)

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