Arctic nations agree to develop oil spill response plan

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, May 13 -- A high-level forum of countries and their Arctic indigenous peoples agreed to negotiate measures for oil spill preparedness and response in the region and to develop an ecosystem-based management (EBM) initiative to protect the area’s environment, US Interior Sec. Ken Salazar said on May 12.

Salazar joined US Sec. of State Hillary R. Clinton in praising the US proposals for EBM and oil pollution prevention which were included in the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting’s declaration as it met in Nuuk, Greenland. In addition to the US, the council’s member nations include Canada, Russia, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. The council was established in 1996.

“Individual Arctic nations as well as Arctic Council working groups have undertaken a number of activities that address ecosystem-based management for the Arctic environment,” Salazar said following the conference. “But there has not been a shared set of principles that guide these efforts. Given the challenges facing the Arctic, it is essential to manage the region’s natural resources in an integrated manner to avoid conflicts and provide for greater environmental protection while still operating commercial activities.”

Salazar said the commitment to negotiate a measure for oil spill preparedness reflected recommendations by US President Barack Obama’s independent oil spill commission for the US to pursue strong international standards for Arctic oil and gas development. On Apr. 14, he convened an offshore drilling containment ministerial forum at Interior headquarters with 12 other nations, and the department is providing marine oil pollution response guidance to other countries.

At the Nuuk ministerial meeting, the US proposal for an oil pollution preparedness and response instrument built on the momentum of a search and rescue agreement which members approved as the group’s first legally binding agreement. In addition to establishing a spill preparedness and response taskforce on Arctic marine oil pollution, the Nuuk Declaration also directed the Arctic Council Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, and Response working group to develop recommendations and best practices for the prevention of marine oil pollution.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.



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