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Found 5 results

  1. Last week left a bittersweet taste in the mouths of environmentalists. On Jan. 25 the Obama administration proposed new protections for large portions of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which, if approved, would be a huge win. Two days later, however, the administration released its new five-year offshore drilling plan, which opened up more of the Atlantic coast and the Arctic Ocean to dirty fossil fuel development - and potential disaster. The new protections for the refuge, at least, would mark a historical achievement. According to the U.S. Department of Interior, which is recommending the protections, the measures could become one of the largest conservation efforts "since Congress passed the visionary Wilderness Act over 50 years ago." The Department's recommendation is that millions more acres of the refuge, including the Coastal Plain, be declared "wilderness." What that means is it will enjoy the highest level of protection possible for public lands. Mining, drilling, road development, and the construction of permanent structures - all of these things will be prohibited, effectively preserving the area and its ecosystem. The issue, however, is that only Congress has the power to make a "wilderness" designation, and given the fact that the Senate just approved the Keystone XL pipeline on Jan. 29, sending it to President Obama's desk for a likely veto, the likelihood of their cooperation on this matter is doubtful. The President, however, challenged Congress to move on the issue. "I'm going to be calling on Congress to take it a step further," he said from Air Force One during a trip to India. "Designating ANWR as a 'wilderness' so that we can make sure that this amazing wonder is preserved for future generations." "Designating vast areas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness reflects the significance this landscape holds for America and its wildlife," said Interior secretary Sally Jewell. "Just like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, the ANWR is one of our nation's crown jewels, and we have an obligation to preserve this spectacular place for generations to come." Republicans seized the chance to attack the development, with Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, saying he and others will "defeat their lawless attempt to designate ANWR as a wilderness, as well as their ultimate goal of making Alaska one big national park." He claimed it was an example of Obama "thumbing his nose at the citizens and [putting] Alaska and America's energy security in serious jeopardy." But the pro-corporate need not have worried; on Jan. 27, the Obama administration catered to them with the release of its proposed 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. The draft plan includes 14 potential lease sales, 10 of which are in the Gulf of Mexico, which is still nursing wounds left by the remnants of the infamous 2010 BP Oil Spill. Three areas off the coast of Alaska (the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas and the Cook Inlet) would also be sold for oil exploration, after Shell's numerous efforts to infiltrate the area in the face of impassioned opposition from environmental groups. The final area to be sold would include parts of the Atlantic including coastal parts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. This plan is "risky wherever we do it," said Bob Deans, spokesperson for the National Resources Defense Council. "Oil travels a long way. It doesn't respect boundaries." In a press release issued by the council, executive director Peter Lehner added, "This takes us in exactly the wrong direction. It will expose the Eastern Seaboard, much of the Atlantic, and most of the Arctic to the hazards of offshore drilling. It ignores the lessons of the disastrous BP blowout, the growing dangers of climate change, and the promise of a clean energy future." This plan "would put our beaches, wetlands, and all they support at grave and needless risk, imperil coastal communities and economies, and anchor our future to the diry fossil fuels of the past." So the glimmer of hope offered by the proposal for ANWR protections was rather tempered, most activists feel, by the dark news that came two days afterward. For many, this surely feels like a classic case of 'two steps forward and three steps back.' Noting that the plan puts the Alaskan areas in particular at serious risk, Tim Donaghy, a senior research specialist with Greenpeace USA, concluded, "Alaska native communities depend on the ocean for their livelihood, not to mention the whales, walruses, seals, birds, and fish that make up one of the few remaining pristine ecosystems on the planet. Crude oil is something that simply can't be put back in the bottle once it has been spilled. The only way to win is not to drill."
  2. Shell has announced that they intend to revive their oil drilling plans in the Arctic waters of off Alaska. But environmentalists, whom have campaigned against these plans for years, warn that Shell is taking a massive risk that could potentially end in disaster for the pristine Arctic environment and its wildlife. The giant's chief executive, Ben van Beurden, acknowledged to the BBC that these fossil fuel development plans for the Arctic may “divide society”, but that they are needed to meet increased global demands for oil and gas. It’s estimated that around 24 billion barrels of oil can be extracted from Alaska – potentially being the biggest oil reserve in the world. Shell’s plans are not new. For the past decade, the energy giant has spent around $6 billion on unsuccessful attempts to extract oil in the fragile region. Shell has also announced a $15 billion cut in global spending, and recent profit figures has disappointed investors. It’s clearly not going that well for Shell. And with plummeting global oil prices many are questioning whether these Arctic plans are economically beneficial. “Despite announcing cuts, Shell hasn't taken the opportunity to cut its most high-cost high-risk project,” said Greenpeace's Charlie Kronick. “Shell is taking a massive risk doggedly chasing oil in the Arctic, not just with shareholder value, but with the pristine Arctic environment. A spill there will be environmentally and financially catastrophic,” Kronick said. “It's time for investors to recognise that it's impossible for Shell to justify its continued pursuit of offshore Arctic oil.” In spite of concerns about the risks of devastating oil spills in the Arctic’s sensitive ecosystems and the impact on our climate from exploiting new sources of fossil fuels, Shell claim that they can drill for oil safely and responsibly. “We will only do this if we feel that we can do it responsibly,” Ben van Beurden said. “I think that we are as well prepared as any company can be to mitigate the risks.” Promises aside, to drill in the Arctic is a very risky business and Shell’s latest attempt in the Arctic ended in fiasco in late 2012 when their oil rig drove up on land. And their track record when it comes to oil spills are not comforting. For example, the company recently had to pay $84 million in clean-up costs after a major oil spill in Nigeria. Before Shell can set their plans in motion they first need approval from the US government to start drilling in Arctic waters. Greenpeace is now pushing for US President Barack Obama to block Shell’s oil drilling plans and to protect the Arctic.
  3. The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation in Spain has detained the Arctic Sunrise, a ship operated by Greenpeace International, while an investigation is completed into the peaceful anti-oil drilling protest, which took place in the waters off Canary Islands this past weekend. The protest was violently stopped by the Spanish Navy – resulting in the injuries of two Greenpeace activists. “The detention of the Arctic Sunrise violates the rights of all people who strive to defend the environment,” said Mario Rodriguez, director of Greenpeace Spain, in a statement. “It’s telling that the Spanish Government would so quickly support the interests of an oil company, Repsol, against a peaceful environmental organisation which stands alongside millions of people who oppose reckless oil exploration.” An investigation has been launched by the Spanish government against the captain of the Arctic Sunrise, for an alleged “infringement against marine traffic rules”, which is punishable with a fine of up to €300,000. Pending this investigation, Spanish authorities have ordered the ship to be detained until a €50,000 bond is paid. Fortunately, the captain and crew have not been detained. In a statement, Greenpeace says they find this response “to a peaceful protest against dangerous oil drilling” to be both “unnecessary and disproportionate.” This incident is sure to bring up bad memories. Just six months ago, the Arctic Sunrise was released by Russian authorities after a nine month long detention for an attempted protest against a Gazprom oil rig. Two freelance journalists and 28 Greenpeace activists were arrested at gunpoint in the Russian Arctic and had to spend three months in jail before being granted amnesty.
  4. Two Greenpeace activist have been injured following a peaceful demonstration against oil drilling in the waters off the Canary Islands. In a dramatic video, released by Greenpeace, you can see how the Spanish Navy deliberately and repeatedly rammed the small boats with the activists at full speed. The video shows how the military vessels partly climbs up on the small boats. It was during one of these collisions that a 23 year old Italian activist was seriously injured when she was knocked overboard and had her leg broken. You can hear her scream in agony in the video. A diver from the Spanish Navy eventually jumps in and save her. The activist was then taken to a hospital in Las Palmas by a navy helicopter, and is reportedly in good condition. A fellow activist received minor injuries and was treated on board the Arctic Sunrise. "We're thankful that no one else was seriously injured, and outraged at the unjustified use of force," Greenpeace writes in a comment to the incident. "It's another reminder of the lengths governments will go to protect the oil industry from peaceful protesters." Greenpeace were protesting against controversial drilling plans just outside the waters of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, two of the Canary Islands. The environmental organisation has sided with locals who are worried that oil drilling could cripple the marine environment around the islands, and ultimately the tourism industry. The activist were heading towards a drilling vessel belonging to the oil company Repsol when they were violently stopped by the Spanish Navy. A spokesman for Spain’s Ministry of Defence blamed the incident on Greenpeace. In a comment to The Spain Report, the spokesman said that Greenpeace "were committing a crime" when they came close to the Repsol ship. “There are government orders on protecting the prospecting ship and they will be followed.” Juande Fernández, head of protest actions for Greenpeace Spain, said the incident was “an act of violence by the Spanish Navy”. Fernández also promised that, despite this incident, they would continue to protest against oil drilling in the Canary Islands. In Madrid, the Socialist Party (PSOE) has called the incident "intolerable" and demanded that Defense Minister Pedro Moreno are to "urgently" explain the Spanish Navy's behaviour for the parliament.
  5. Earlier this week, a group of Greenpeace activists climbed onto an oil rig belonging to Statoil, a Norwegian state-owned oil and gas company. The oil rig was being moved to its new drilling location in the Barents Sea, located near the unique Arctic habitat of Bear Island – a protected nature reserve home to countless of sea birds, polar bears and other wildlife. The activists managed to “occupy” the oil rig for 48 hours before they were forcefully removed by Norwegian police. Following the arrest of its activists, Greenpeace decided to block the actual drilling site with its ship the Esperanza. The activists rejected the coast guard's demands to move the ship. As a result, Norway’s Ministry of Petroleum informed Greenpeace that the government had created a “safety zone” around the drilling site. And early this morning, the Norwegian coast guard boarded Esperanza and started towing it away. Because Esperanza was outside of Norwegian territorial waters, Greenpeace believes that the boarding violates international law. “There is no reason why the Esperanza should have to make way for oil companies to drill here because of the abrupt and irregular declaration of a safety zone,” said Greenpeace International legal counsel Daniel Simons. “Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, foreign vessels enjoy freedom of navigation through the Exclusive Economic Zone. We certainly have as much right to be here as companies drilling for Arctic oil," Simons explained. Greenpeace also delivered a petition from over 120,000 people to Tine Sundtoft, the Norwegian Environment minister, asking her to reconsider the decision to allow drilling near Bear Island, a protected nature reserve. “I took action in Russia last year to stop exactly the same recklessness as I can see here in Norway. We ask everyone to tell the Norwegian government to stop this dangerous rush into the beautiful Arctic environment and rethink its increasingly desperate hunt for oil,” said 32 year old Sini Saarela from Finland, who spent over two months in Russian prison for climbing another Arctic oil rig in September last year.