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Green Groups Want Norway’s Arctic Oil Drilling Licenses Canceled

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Environmentalist organizations took the Norwegian government to court over the awarding of oil drilling licenses in the Arctic, and argued on the first day of hearings on Tuesday that the 2015 licenses should be withdrawn as they violate Norway’s constitution and the country’s pledge to fulfill the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement.

“We argue that these licenses are not allowed under the law as per the Constitution,” Cathrine Hambro, who represents the plaintiffs, told an Oslo court in her opening argument, as quoted by Reuters.

On the eve of the start of the hearings scheduled for November 14-23, Truls Gulowsen, Head of Greenpeace Norway, said:

“By allowing new oil drilling in the Arctic the Norwegian government puts homes, health and families everywhere at risk, and should be held accountable. It is clear to us that this new search for oil is in violation of the Paris Agreement and the Norwegian Constitution, and we look forward to raising these arguments in court.”

“This court case is giving us a critical opportunity to protect our futures and, we hope, providing a valuable tool for others to do the same,” Ingrid Skjoldvær, Head of co-plaintiffs Nature and Youth (Natur og Ungdom), said.

According to the office of Norway’s Attorney General, who is representing the state, the plaintiffs’ argument is based on “a distinctly broad, political, and expanded interpretation of the Constitution’s article 112.” The state will argue that the oil licenses are not connected to its constitution. Ole Berthelsen, spokesman for Norway’s Petroleum Minister, has said that the validity of the licenses could not be “attacked on this basis,” referring to the unconstitutional claim.

While Greenpeace and other environmental groups are suing Norway for the previous round of licenses, the country’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energy is offering a total of 102 blocks up for exploration in the 24th licensing round on the Norwegian Continental Shelf—a record number of blocks in the area, with the application deadline for companies set for November 30, 2017.

Related:The War That Would Transform Oil Markets

In the previous round for which environmentalists seek to have the court cancel the licenses, 13 companies won oil exploration blocks in the Barents Sea—Statoil, Capricorn, Tullow, Centrica, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, DEA, Aker BP, Idemitsu, Lukoil, Lundin Petroleum, OMV, and PGNiG.

The petroleum sector accounts for 14 percent of Norway’s GDP, and for 14 percent of the state’s revenues. The Government Pension Fund Global—which is saving for future generations in Norway and has accumulated wealth via transfer of oil revenues—is the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund and recently hit US$1 trillion in value for the first time.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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