Greenpeace threatens legal action over UK oil drilling

Environmental campaigners are threatening the Government with legal action over drilling for oil in UK waters.

Environmental campaigners are threatening the Government with legal action over drilling for oil in UK waters.

Greenpeace accused ministers of granting licences for deep sea drilling off the UK coast before the causes of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico had been properly established.

Lawyers for the environmental group have written to the Government calling for it to stop the UK licensing process for new offshore oil exploration and production and to consult on a new full environmental assessment of deep water drilling.

Greenpeace said the Government's actions in continuing with licensing for new offshore drilling without a new environmental assessment was in breach of European and UK law and was "irrational".

If the Government does not give an undertaking within 14 days that it will stop the licensing and consult on a new environmental assessment, Greenpeace says it will apply for judicial review of the decision.

The threat of legal action comes as four Greenpeace climbers who spent nearly 48 hours on a Arctic oil rig operated by a British company ended their occupation early this morning in the face of strong winds and freezing conditions.

Greenpeace hopes its protest on the rig, which stopped drilling for two days, will mean Cairn Energy will struggle to meet the deadline to complete exploration in the area off Greenland before winter ice conditions force an end to work until next year.

John Sauven, Greenpeace executive director, said: "Our climbers have stopped this rig from drilling in the fragile Arctic for two days and this is just the start of a long campaign.

"The world needs to go beyond oil, but here in the UK the Government is waving through applications for for new drilling as if the Deepwater Horizon explosion never happened.

"The Gulf of Mexico disaster was a game changer, so ministers should suspend new deep water licences and companies like Cairn Energy must stop dangerous drilling in the Arctic and start investing in clean alternatives instead."

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