Pressure mounts to stop Arctic drilling
MPs add weight to campaign
A cross-party committee of MPs has accused the Government of hypocrisy for refusing to push for a moratorium on drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic after the Government rejected a call by the Environmental Audit Committee for a blanket ban on drilling around the North Pole.
Joan Walley, who chairs the committee, told the Independent: "A few years ago the Prime Minister rode with huskies in the Arctic to demonstrate his commitment on environmental issues, but now he is being asked to protect that pristine wilderness for real he has refused to take a lead on the issue."
The Arctic is seen as the next new oil frontier, with British companies such as BP, Shell and Cairn Energy keen to exploit the waters around Russia, Alaska and Greenland respectively. The 16-person committee said the Government wields significant influence in the Arctic, which it should use to push for the moratorium.
It is a key member of the United Nations and one of only six countries outside the Arctic with a say in how the block is run, through its status as a permanent observer state in the Arctic Council intergovernmental forum.
In the US, campaign group Pacific Environment have started a lobbying campaign to try and stop Arctic drilling in US waters. They say that UK company Shell is not prepared to drill safely in the Arctic.
Just two weeks ago its drill rig Kulluk was grounded off Alaska and both of Shell’s Arctic drill rigs, the Kulluk and Noble Discoverer, are under investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for violating the conditions of their clean air permits.
The Discoverer has violated a number of EPA edicts including: failure to install some required air pollution control equipment and properly calibrate some air pollution monitoring equipment; operation of unpermitted propulsion engines; and violation of emission limits and failure to report them in a timely manner.
Campaigners say that not only did the Discoverer violate the terms of its original air permits, it didn’t even manage to meet the more lenient limits the EPA granted Shell at the start of the drilling season in 2012.
They add that now instead of cleaning up its act, the oil giant requested that the air permits for the Discoverer be weakened even further.
They are now asking people to email President Obama and Secretary Salazar to immediately halt all offshore drilling activities in America’s Arctic.
Meanwhile Greenpeace's 'Save the Arctic" campaign continues apace with over 2 million people signing a petition asking that the UN declare a global sanctuary in the Arctic.
You can read more about companies investing in Artic oil exploration in our Special Report on Insurance Companies