Cairn Energy wins Greenland drilling injunction

Cairn Energy has won a court injunction to keep Greenpeace activists from disrupting its Arctic offshore drilling efforts.

Greenpeace to be fined when protesters disrupt drilling

Cairn Energy has won a court injunction to keep Greenpeace activists from disrupting its Arctic offshore drilling efforts.

Greenpeace activists board Cairn Energy's Leiv Eiriksson oil rig, in this photo posted on the group's website on June 4. ((Steve Morgan/Greenpeace))

Under the injunction, which was granted by an Amsterdam court on Thursday, Greenpeace International can be fined €50,000 for each day protesters interfere with Cairn Energy's drilling off the western coast of Greenland.

A total of 20 Greenpeace activists were arrested last week after scaling the 53,000-tonne Leiv Eiriksson rig, one of two vessels the Scottish energy company is using to explore for oil and gas of Greenland's coast this year.

Earlier this week, Cairn Energy said it was seeking the injunction against Greenpeace "to refrain from future disruption" on its rigs.

The fine amount that was set by the court is much lower than the €2-million penalty Cairn Energy wanted, according to Greenpeace.

Cairn Energy drilled three exploration wells last summer and plans to drill four wells this summer in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait. It has approval from the Greenland government to drill up to seven wells this year.

Greenpeace has been criticizing the company, which is the only firm that is drilling in the area, for not taking extra precautions that the activist group says are needed to avoid environmental disasters like the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Group wants company's oil spill plan

The group is calling on Cairn Energy to make public its plan on how to manage a potential oil spill, arguing that the Arctic's remoteness and freezing temperatures would make cleanup efforts extremely difficult.

Cairn Energy maintains that it has "an extensive emergency response and oil spill response plan," but that plan has not been made publicly available.

Last Saturday, 18 Greenpeace members climbed aboard the Leiv Eiriksson rig and briefly halted the company's work. They were later removed and arrested by Danish authorities.

Two other Greenpeace activists were arrested earlier last week, after they had attached themselves under the rig in a pod, hanging just a few meters from the drill-bit that would be used to strike oil.

Greenpeace said it stopped drilling for four days, but Cairn Energy has denied the claim and said it continued drilling after only a 12-hour stop on Saturday.

Greenland's government has called the Greenpeace action a publicity stunt at the expense of Greenland's "legitimate right" to develop its economy.

Despite the court injunction, Greenpeace said it will continue its campaign against Arctic offshore drilling.

Nunavut watches Greenland situation

While Greenpeace has been raising concerns about the impacts of an oil spill in Arctic waters, some Inuit in Canada are equally worried about the impacts drilling alone could have on marine wildlife.

"Even when I was a youngster, when the ships were coming, we'd watch the animals get disturbed," Larry Audlaluk, an Inuk elder in Grise Fiord, Nunavut, told CBC News Friday.

"Seals would become very scared and really come near the shore. So drilling is [a] very loud thing."

Should Cairn Energy discover a major oil or gas deposit off Greenland's coast, it could prompt other companies — some of which have secured exploration licences in the area — to start drilling there as well.

Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak said while she trusts Greenland to make responsible decisions with regard to offshore drilling activities, she is ruling out any drilling in Nunavut waters, at least for now.

"We're not ready for any kind of oil drilling yet. I think we're many years away as yet," Aariak said. "But what is happening in Greenland now is something that we can learn from."

With files from The Associated Press