Greenpeace scales Russian oil platform to protest Arctic drilling

Greenpeace

Greenpeace activists scaled a frigid Russian oil platform on Friday to draw attention to the dangers of drilling for petroleum in the Arctic, warning that a spill could sully nature reserves long before crews are able to clean it up.

The six environmentalists were blasted with icy water as they hung from the side of the Prirazlomnaya platform, then pelted with metal objects, Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo wrote, sending updates on Twitter as he and five other activists tried to hold their ground.

After 15 hours, they decided to come down for their safety. The activists returned to a Greenpeace ship to get medical attention, Greenpeace media officer Myriam Fallon said.

The Russian energy company subsidiary that owns the platform, Gazprom Neft Shelf, said in a statement emailed to Bloomberg and the Associated Press that the activists had rejected an offer to come aboard for a “constructive dialogue.” Work on the platform off the northeastern coast of Russia was proceeding normally, it said.

Gazprom has been gearing up to become the first company to produce oil from the Arctic, which is believed to have the biggest untapped oil reserves on the planet. Greenpeace and other environmental groups say the drilling threatens to devastate the fragile region.

Last week, environmental activists released an analysis from a Russian think tank showing a vast oil spill could reach protected areas in as little as 18 hours –- far less time than it would take to bring in professional crews to clean up the mess, Greenpeace said.

"It's not a question of if an oil spill would happen, but when -- and when it does, Gazprom would be powerless to stop it," Naidoo wrote in an open letter on the Greenpeace website.

Greenpeace has also charged that the Gazprom emergency plan for oil spills had expired, making its drilling plans illegal under Russian law, citing a letter from the Russian Emergency Ministry.

Gazprom Neft Shelf could not be immediately reached Friday to respond to those concerns. Last week it said its drilling platform in the Arctic was safe and reliable, but neither confirmed nor denied reports that its emergency plan had expired, the Moscow Times reported.

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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: A team of six Greenpeace activists including Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo board the Prirazlomnaya oil platform off the northeastern coast of Russia. Credit: Denis Sinyakov / Greenpeace

 
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