Norway blocks second Arctic test drill

Government responds to environmental groups' objections as national election looms

Norway's pollution control authority (SFT) yesterday announced that it had halted another controversial offshore oil exploration project in the Arctic. The surprise decision is the second such reversal in less than a week (EED 30/08/01). Norsk Agip's licence to drill in the Barents Sea to the north of Hammerfest is suspended while the government processes objections filed by three NGOs.

The Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature (NNV), one of the objectors, today welcomed the decision as "natural" in the light of last week's decision to stop an exploration project off the Lofoten Islands. "The government and parliament must now accept that oil drilling in the north is environmentally hazardous and dare to take a principled stand," NNV's Gunnar Album said in a statement calling for a ten-year ban on all oil drilling in the north.

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