Norway authorities stop Greenpeace protests at Arctic well

By Reuters - August 18, 2017
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Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise vessel displays a banner reading "People vs. Arctic Oil" as it sails during a protest next to Statoil's Songa Enabler rig in the Barents sea, Norway, July 21, 2017. (Will Rose/ Greenpeace / Handout via Reuters)
Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise vessel displays a banner reading “People vs. Arctic Oil” as it sails during a protest next to Statoil’s Songa Enabler rig in the Barents sea, Norway, July 21, 2017. (Will Rose/ Greenpeace / Handout via Reuters)

OSLO — Norwegian coast guards stopped Greenpeace from protesting at a site of the country’s northernmost exploration well drilled by Statoil, the environmentalist group said on Thursday.

A number of activists entered a 500-meter safety perimeter around Songa Enabler rig with rubber boats and kayaks on Thursday, seeking to stop the drilling of the Korpfjell well, situated more than 400 kilometers from the mainland.

Statoil said entering the safety zone was “illegal and irresponsible,” and it called the police to intervene. The coast guards reacted to the call shortly.

“The Arctic Sunrise is currently being towed away from the drilling site, to the mainland in Tromsoe, Northern Norway,” Greenpeace said in a statement late on Thursday. There were 35 activists and crew members on board, it added.

Norwegian police said Greenpeace activists were ordered to leave as they were disturbing the oil drilling, in violation of Norwegian interests according to the Petroleum Act.

When the activists refused to leave voluntarily, the coast guards were called in to remove them, it added.

Greenpeace said it had the right to protest peacefully in the international waters against the Arctic drilling, which the group says endangers Arctic birds and is contrary to Norway’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris Agreement.

Oil and gas industry is the main carbon dioxide-emitting source in Norway, accounting to about a quarter of the country’s total emissions.

Statoil spudded the Korpfjell well last week and expects the drilling to last 25-30 days.

Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis.