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European Union declines Arctic oil moratorium

Three European Union countries have Arctic coastlines. A fourth Arctic nation, Iceland, wants to join the union. Rigs contracted to Shell Oil Co. are currently doing preparatory drilling work off of Alaska's northern coast. And Europeans who support energy exploration in the Far North claimed victory this week when policymakers for the federation's parliament rejected a proposed E.U.-wide moratorium on Arctic offshore oil and gas drilling.

The Oct. 9 vote effectively empowers E.U. member states to forge individual or regional directives for Arctic exploration, according to European news service EurActiv (via The Guardian, a U.K. newspaper). It also will require industries planning Arctic activity to prove they have "adequate financial security" for handling any potential disasters or accidents. Officials called the directive a framework for industrial liability that will encourage companies eager (and financially able) to explore responsibly, while discouraging those that cannot afford the risks present in the remote, environmentally harsh region. 

The Guardian reports that energy supermajors, including past and present titans of the Alaska oil patch, worked behind the scenes with a British nonprofit organization against the proposed E.U. moratorium. A British oil and gas nonprofit worked with the oil companies to stymie the moratorium. Environmental groups that oppose Arctic development, including Greenpeace, suspect that oil industry lobbying thwarted the bill. Royal Dutch Shell, based in the E.U., recently became the first oil company to drill in the U.S. Arctic since the mid-1980s.

Read more at The Guardian, and review the Alaska Dispatch special report Arctic Offshore vs. ANWR to better understand how Shell succeeded in securing regulatory approval to drill in the U.S. Arctic.