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Greenpeace head arrested for protesting against Arctic oil rig

Jun 21, 2011

Greenpeace International head Kumi Naidoo has been arrested for defying a sanction to scale a controversial Arctic oil rig offshore Greenland. He is demanding an immediate halt to Arctic oil drilling by Cairn Energy as it lacks a response plan for oil spill.


Video: Greenpeace chief climbs oil rig to protest against Arctic drilling

The head of Greenpeace International was being held by police in a Greenland cell on Friday after boarding a giant oil rig in defiance of a court injunction. Kumi Naidoo, a South African national, faces prison and the pressure group he leads stands to be fined €50,000 by a Dutch court.

In dramatic scenes 120km off the west coast of Greenland, Naidoo and another activist boarded the 52,000 tonne Leiv Eiriksson semi-submersible rig, chartered by Scottish oil company Cairn Energy, around 6.45am on Friday. They climbed 80 ft up one of the rig's legs despite the crew using water cannons to repel them.

Morten Neilsen, Greenland's deputy chief of police, said the two activists were arrested after several hours on a walkway and would be charged with trespass and were likely to be expelled from Greenland by the immigration service.

"For me this is one of the defining environmental battles of our age"
Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director, Greenpeace International

Speaking to the Guardian from the rig before his arrest, Naidoo said he was calling on Cairn to halt drilling for oil and would request a copy of the rig's spill response plan. The document, which has not been made public, has been at the centre of a month-long campaign of direct action by the environment group in Arctic and Turkish waters.

Naidoo said: "For me this is one of the defining environmental battles of our age, it's a fight for sanity against the madness of a mindset that sees the melting of the Arctic sea ice as a good thing. As the ice retreats the oil companies want to send the rigs in and drill for the fossil fuels that got us into this mess in the first place. We have to stop them. It goes right to the heart of the kind of world we want and the one which we want to pass onto our children."

Greenpeace said it had been served another writ by Cairn on Friday, requesting the Dutch courts to increase the possible fine for breaching the injunction to €500,000 a day.

But a spokesman for Cairn said: "We are simply taking appropriate steps in the Dutch courts to enforce the terms of the court order obtained [earlier] against Greenpeace."

The injunction served by a Dutch court forbade the organisation from going within 500m of the rig. It was issued after 20 activists were arrested in the last month for trying to stop the rig from operating.

"The Greenland Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum (BMP) has established some of the most stringent operating regulations anywhere globally, which mirror those applied in the Norwegian North Sea," the company added in a statement.

"There is no reason why the world can tell Greenland there is oil and gas everywhere in the world that can be explored but that Greenland cannot"
Jonas Gahr Store, Norwegian foreign minister

The bureau says on its website: "The 'BMP emergency management programme, hydrocarbon activities, Greenland' is a confidential document in order to protect personnel, telephone numbers, emergency storage buildings etc."

Naidoo, 45, was a youth leader in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, where he was arrested several times and charged with violating provisions against mass mobilisation, civil disobedience and for violating the state of emergency. He lived underground before being forced to flee South Africa and live in exile in the UK.

When appointed executive director of Greenpeace International in 2009, he said: "History teaches us that real change only comes when good men and women are prepared to put their lives and personal safety on the line to advance the cause of justice, equity and peace."

The Norwegian foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Store, recently entered the debate about exploration for oil in the Arctic, telling the Guardian: "There is no reason why the world can tell Greenland there is oil and gas everywhere in the world that can be explored but that Greenland cannot."

He added: "This is a matter for Denmark and Greenland and I take it they have solid standards for [drilling] operations."

Asked about the direct actions taken by Greenpeace against Cairn Energy's activities off Greenland, he said he did not "want to venture into a criminal case".

Norway, the second biggest gas exporter and seventh biggest oil exporter in the world, has allowed the drilling of 80 wells in the Arctic, in the Barents sea. Støre said the proposed drilling of Greenland was at the same latitude as the main Norwegian oil and gas fields, in operation for decades, and was far further south than the Barents Sea.

In a recent round of awards of oil and gas exploration blocks off Norway, half were awarded against the advice of Norway's Institute of Marine Research, which was concerned about the impact on cold water coral reefs and fish spawning areas. Ole Anders Lindseth, director general of Norway's Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, said other bodies had supported the awards. "Is it the majority that says yes that you listen to, or the minority that says no?" he asked.

Read Greenpeace Press Release here.

Source : Guardian
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