No Licenses for Arctic Oil & Gas? European Parliament’s Environmental Committee voting on “Offshore safety regulation’s” affecting the Arctic

European Parliament

This week the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) in the European Parliament voted on an opinion on the regulation on safety of offshore oil and gas prospection, exploration and production activities which are dealt with in the report by the leading Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE).

Several amendments suggested a drilling ban on Arctic oil and gas. In addition to the joint compromise nr 13,  the amendment 73, tabled by MEP’s of the communist, socialist, liberal and green groups, suggested that: “As long as an effective response to any accident in the Arctic conditions cannot be guaranteed, Member States should refrain from authorising onshore activities, including exploration, in the area.” In addition, amendments 101 and 188 were voted with a centre-left majority in the committee to include Arctic in the legislation, thus supporting a ban on activities in the Arctic.

It is important to highlight, that contrary to some believes this vote of the ENVI committee, delivering not more than an opinion to the leading ITRE committee does not conclude that the European Parliament has yet decided on the matter.

Next week, the ITRE Committee, holding the legal competence on the respective article will vote on the Draft Report and the opinions, followed by the vote of the whole Parliament in the next plenary session.

The EU Arctic Forum in cooperation with partners from science, politics and business in the Arctic has worked to inform policy makers in Brussels and make them aware of the specific legal and political conditions in the European Arctic.

In fact, Greenland a special territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, after gaining home rule, has decided in a referendum in 1985 to leave the E.C.

On the other hand, Norway, the most relevant energy producing country in the European Arctic, incorporating parts of the EU legislation trough the EEA agreement, is rejecting the suggested regulation.

Hence, MEP’s will have to debate and decide in the weeks to come, if  the European Parliament should indeed request a ban on Arctic activities, as suggested in the mentioned ENVI opinion, while the EU itself has no direct legislative competence in the Arctic Ocean, given that so far neither Norway, Iceland, Russia, USA or Canada have joined the EU as full members.


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