Greenpeace slams Arctic Council’s oil spill response plan

Greenpeace activists dressed as polar bears protest outside Gazprom's headquarters in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. Russian and international environmentalists are protesting against Gazprom's plans to pioneer oil drilling in the Arctic. (Misha Japaridze/AP Photo)Greenpeace is calling on all eight nations with the Arctic Council to take stronger measures to protect Arctic waters.

The activist group announced Monday that it had obtained a draft copy of the council’s oil spill response agreement, called ‘Co-operation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic’.

In an interview with CBC, Greenpeace said the plan is being touted as the council’s first legally-binding agreement, but they say it’s vague about essential response details.

“There is no knowledge about how to deal with an oil spill in the Arctic, it’s an extremely risky endeavor, it’s experimental, the companies have not done this before, they don’t know how to deal with an accident, they don’t know how to prevent an accident and there is simply no response capacity in any of the Arctic states to deal with what could be the worst environmental disaster in history,” said Christy Ferguson, the Arctic project leader for Greenpeace Canada.

Ferguson said the draft does not include anything about the liability of oil companies in a cross-boundary incident.

“We also would like to see the agreement contain specific provisions for the oil companies who are doing the drilling to be held fully responsible in the case of an accident so that means full liability for operators. Right now, liability is mentioned but there’s actually no provision there that requires them to actually pay in the event of an accident.”

She said the agreement is expected to be adopted at the upcoming Arctic Council ministerial meeting in May in Sweden.

Ferguson says the agreement needs to be toughened up with stronger measures to protect arctic waters.

“We would like to see the agreement contain very specific lists of equipment that they need to have, preparations that they need to have in place, measures and protocols that they need to have in place, everything that would be required in the event of a Deepwater Horizon-style disaster in the Arctic.”

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