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Greenpeace activists convicted for stopping Arctic oil rig


Copenhagen - 20 Greenpeace activists who took peaceful direct action to protect the Arctic have been found guilty of trespassing and fined by a Greenland Court [1], after they scaled one of the world’s biggest oil rigs. In addition, 18 of the activists were also found guilty of breaking the security zone around the rig.

In May 2011, Greenpeace volunteers from nine countries [2] boarded the 53,000 tonne Leiv Eiriksson rig in the freezing waters west of Greenland to demand that UK company Cairn Energy publish its plan for dealing with an oil spill in the Arctic. Though the activists were arrested, their actions sparked worldwide attention, and mounting pressure, with more than 100,000 people signing a petition calling for the document be released. The Greenland Government finally published the plan in August [3].

“We take full responsibility for our peaceful actions to protect the Arctic”, said one of the activists, Greenpeace Campaigner Ben Ayliffe. “Cairn Energy admits that a spill in this fragile and unique environment would be catastrophic; it is madness to allow such reckless companies to drill for more of the oil that is causing the region to melt in the first place. Our campaign to make the frozen north a no-go area for the oil industry will continue.”

Cairn Energy’s oil spill plan – which it had tried to keep secret - admits that any clean up operation would have to stop completely during the long Arctic winter, while traditional recovery techniques using booms and skimmers would not be effective in freezing waters. Cairn note that clean-up techniques can be so damaging that some oiled beaches would be best left to “recover naturally,” adding that it would try to cut out chunks of oiled ice to melt them in heated warehouses. The plan also shows that a spill would cause devastating problems for Arctic wildlife like narwhals and breeding colonies of puffins and razorbills.

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace.

Notes for Editors:

[1] The case took place in the Greenlandic capital Nuuk, while the activists were represented by their lawyer in Copenhagen via video conference. The verdict was reached on September 23rd, with two of the activists were each fined 1,500 DKK (€200) each, while the other 18, who were also found guilty of breaking a security zone were fined 4,000 DKK (€550) each. The state will cover all court costs.

[2] The 20 activists who boarded the rig were from the USA, UK, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Finland, Canada, Hungary and Sweden.

[3] Veteran marine biologist and international oil spill expert Professor Rick Steiner has completed a review of the plan for Greenpeace. This can be read alongside the Greenpeace analysis.

On September 13th 2011, Cairn Energy admitted that two more of the wells it has drilled this year had come up dry. This means it has found no oil off Greenland over the last two years.


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