September 20, 2012 - 14:14 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - British MPs are calling on Shell and others to halt "reckless" oil and gas drilling in the Arctic until stronger safety measures are put in place, The Guardian reports.
Politicians also want to impose "unlimited" financial liability on operators and the creation of a "no-drill zone" in a new environmental sanctuary.
The uncompromising demands have angered the energy industry but come just days after alarming new evidence has emerged about Arctic sea ice melting at record levels. They also come on the day that an environment committee of MEPs in Brussels called for tougher financial guarantees from oil companies to ensure they could pay for spills in European waters.
The British initiatives are contained in a report published on Thursday, Sept 20, from the cross-party environmental audit committee (EAC) of the House of Commons, which warns that the vulnerable Arctic region is being endangered by a misguided search for hydrocarbons.
"The shocking speed at which the Arctic sea ice is melting should be a wake-up call to the world that we need to phase out fossil fuels fast," said the committee chair, Joan Walley MP. "Instead we are witnessing a reckless gold rush in this pristine wilderness as big companies and governments make a grab for the world's last untapped oil and gas reserves."
The EAC said it had heard "compelling evidence" from experts during several months of hearings that if a blowout occurred just before the dark Arctic winter returned it would not be possible to cap any oil spill until the following summer.
Shell is currently in the middle of an exploration attempt in the Chukchi Sea, Alaska, but has had to call off immediate drilling due to dangers from ice and a faulty safety dome, which would be used for capping wells in the event of a blowout. The Anglo-Dutch group has already been heavily criticised for allegedly failing to properly test a new dome.
ExxonMobil, Gazprom and others are either already working or preparing to operate in the Arctic region off Russia, Greenland or Alaska.
The first report by MPs into the new rush for resources, entitled "Protecting the Arctic", says there should be a drilling moratorium until "the highest available" environmental standards can be imposed right across the far north.