Norwegian oil debate goes Arctic
The management plan for the Norwegian Sea presented by government last week bans oil drilling in several coastal areas, but at the same time opens up for drilling in new places in the Arctic, among them in the waters around Jan Mayen.
In its management plan for the Norwegian Sea, the Norwegian government highlights the need for the protection of several area located near the coast, like in the Møre blocks and the socalled Sularevet . At the same time, the plan opens up for drilling in new Arctic areas, among them in the waters around the island Jan Mayen.
“The Norwegian Sea will be the cornerstone in Norwegian petroleum industry in the years to come,” Minister of Oil and Energy Terje Riis Johansen said in his presentation of the plan last Friday. In that same press conference, Minister of Environment Erik Solheim highlighted that the plan is a compromise between the need for new industry and the need for environmental protection.
“I expect that the measures in the plan will help clarify and reduce controversies between environmental considerations and industrial interests,” Mr. Solheim said, a government press release reads.
That compromise is not acceptable for environmentalists. The Bellona Foundation believes the Norwegian protection policy in the High North is contradictory. “It is a scandal that the government now for the first time considers oil drilling in the Arctic,” Bellona leader Frederic Hauge says to Bellona.no.
“The government says no to oil drilling in coastal areas [in the region], at the same time as it opens up for oil drilling around Jan Mayen,” Bellona advier Elisabeth Sæther says. “That is a schizophrenic policy,” she adds. The opening up for drilling in the Jan Mayen areas comes just days after the government officially approved oil company ENI’s development plans for the Goliat oil field in the Barents Sea. Also that decision is disputed by environmentalists arguing that the field poses a major threat to the marine environment.