European countries reject offshore drilling ban proposal

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 27 -- A group of 15 environment ministers representing European countries with an interest in the northeast Atlantic Ocean opposed a proposal for a moratorium on deepwater oil drilling in the area.

Gard Nybro-Nielsen, spokesman for Norway’s Environment Ministry, said the OSPAR Convention “decided it will wait for the American report on the Deepwater Horizon accident” before taking any decision.

The ban on offshore drilling was proposed by Germany at a meeting in the western Norwegian city of Bergen, but it was quickly withdrawn following pressure from the region's oil-producing countries: Norway, Denmark, and the UK.

"Another proposal was tabled instead,” said Nybro-Nielsen, referring to a decision by the member states to create six marine protected areas in the northeast Atlantic, in a bid to protect the region's environment.

The commission said the six zones, which cover a total area of 185,000 sq km, comprise “a range of vulnerable deepsea habitats and species” and that the decision to protect them should create a worldwide precedent.

But environmental organization Greenpeace, which is seeking a ban on deepwater offshore oil drilling, was not mollified and said that the failed proposal represented a “total victory for the oil industry.”

Truls Gulowsen of Greenpeace Norway said the environmental officials meeting in Bergen “did not have the political courage to protect us against another accident like Deepwater Horizon, while it was in their reach to do so.”

The Ospar Convention is comprised of 15 European countries, including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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