European countries reject Atlantic oil drilling ban proposal
Countries bordering the north-east Atlantic rejected a ban proposal on deep-sea offshore drilling destined to avoid an environmental disaster comparable to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, Norway said Friday.
The ban was proposed by Germany at a meeting in the western Norwegian city of Bergen of the OSPAR commission, a body through which the 15 countries with western coasts and catchments of Europe, together with the European Union, cooperate to protect the environment of the North-East Atlantic.
The proposal was quickly withdrawn following pressure from the region's oil-producing countries, namely Norway, Denmark and Britain, Greenpeace said.
"Instead, another proposal was presented ... before taking any other decision, we will wait for the reports on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig to be presented to President Obama in January ," Gard Nybro-Nielsen, a spokesperson of Norway's environment ministry, told AFP.
Shortly after the BP-leased Deepwater Horzion oil rig exploded in April, killing 11 and causing a catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, US President Barack Obama ordered a six month freeze on deepwater offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
The freeze was annulled by a court in July and promptly reinstated by the government. It expires on November 30.
Germany's failure to push a common ban for all OSPAR countries means eventual bans would have to be put in place by individual countries.
Environmental organisation Greenpeace, which is pushing for a ban of deep-sea offshore oil drilling, said the failed proposal was a "total victory for the oil industry."
Officials meeting in Bergen "did not have the political courage to protect us against another accident like Deepwater Horizon, while it was in their reach to do so," said Truls Gulowsen of Greenpeace Norway.
Activists from the environmental group have since Tuesday occupied Chevron-operated oil drilling ship anchored off the Shetland Isles to push for a ban on deepwater drilling in the North Sea.
At the end of August, Greenpeace activists climbed on to an oil rig operated by Scottish oil exploration group Cairn Energy off the coast of Greenland and halted drilling for more than a day.
© 2010 AFP