Cairn spill plans rubbished by expert

Greenpeace campaigners have ripped apart Cairn Energy’s recently-published oil spill response plans, claiming the drilling company has vastly underestimated the effect of a potential disaster off the coast of Greenland. The environmental group is accusing the Edinburgh-based firm of “breathtaking irresponsibility”, saying the treacherous conditions in the Arctic region would render their emergency response procedures wholly inadequate.

Greenpeace, which has spent months pressuring Cairn into publishing the document, asked oil spill expert and marine biologist Professor Richard Steiner to analyse the details. The plans include suggestions that portable lights could be used to assist clean-up teams during the region’s annual winter darkness, and that blocks of ice could be cut out of any affected area and thawed to remove the oil.

Prof Steiner said the Scottish firm had both “dramatically overestimated” the effectiveness of their response preparations and underestimated the impacts of a blow-out or a spill in the ecologically-delicate area. He also pointed out that numerous species of wildlife would be affected by a disaster, and that the rocky and icy coastline of Greenland would make it almost impossible to deploy any traditional cleanup methods.

A Cairn Energy spokeswoman said they had consulted a number of third parties while drawing up the plans, including Oil Spill Response Ltd and the Greenland government. “All are satisfied that the plan is robust and appropriately designed to deal with an incident in this area,” she said.

Vicky Wyatt, a Greenpeace campaigner, rubbished these claims, however.”The company offers only giant assumptions and pie-in-the-sky solutions. Cairn Energy is showing breathtaking irresponsibility by completely failing to offer any detail as to how they would really deal with a spill in ice-covered seas, if indeed they could at all,” she said.

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