Oslo fends off climate activists, offers oil companies 136 new oil blocks in northern waters

“New discoveries are necessary to ensure continued activity, ripple effects, employment and governmental revenues across the country,” says Norway’s Minister of Petroleum and Energy Tina Bru. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)
As the Norwegian government awaits the Supreme Court’s verdict in a historic climate law suit, it announces another 136 oil blocks in northern waters.

The record-number of new oil blocks in the Norwegian Sea and Barents Sea is part of the country’s 25th License Round. Companies are now invited to place bids for their desired blocks.

About half of the suggested blocks are in the northern part of the Barents Sea at between 73°N and 74°N and will, if approved, be some of the northernmost offshore oil drillings in the world.

In a comment, Norway’s Minister of Petroleum and Energy Tina Bru underlines that “new discoveries are necessary to ensure continued activity, ripple effects, employment and governmental revenues across the country.”

“Around 200,000 people are employed directly or indirectly in the petroleum sector in Norway,” she explains.

Environmental groups call new move “reckless”

But for environmentalists, the announcement of the new license round is seen as a highly provocative step. According to Greenpeace Norway, the announcement from government is “reckless and a mockery of future generations.”

“This is a shameful day to be Norwegian. With this announcement, Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s government has no right to claim to be a green pioneering country. The oil has gone straight to the government’s head,” says Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway.

The decision stands in stark conflict with the recently completed climate law suit against the Norwegian state, the environmental organization underlines.

“We have recently completed a climate lawsuit in the Supreme Court and The parliament’s Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs is still awaiting answers to several questions it has asked the government regarding oil production in the north of Norway. The fact that the government prioritises the announcement of 136 new drilling blocks in this situation, is baffling,” Pleym says in an email comment.

Group urges responsibility

Also Nature and Youth is reacting strongly to the announced new oil blocks. The organization now warns oil companies to take part in the license round.

“This is a chance for the oil companies that call themselves responsible. If Equinor is serious about being a company oriented towards the future, it must abstain from applying for the blocks that clearly contradicts environmental recommendations,” says organization leader Therese Hugstmyr Woie.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Indigenous leaders applaud most recent Canadian bank to nix financing Arctic oil and gas, Eye on the Arctic

China: Gazprom to build new pipelines between Arctic Russia and China, The Independent Barents Observer

Finland: Finland investigates oil leak risks from Baltic Sea shipwrecks, Yle News

Iceland: Iceland to restrict heavy fuel oil use in territorial waters, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Russia’s Arctic NAO region struggles to pay bills as oil revenues plummet, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Canadian Gwich’in leaders and conservationists suing U.S. over leasing program for Arctic wildlife refuge, CBC News

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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