Wildlife and environment
Norwegian government to ban oil exploration in protected Arctic area
© RIA Novost. Vitaliy Timkiv

Norwegian government to ban oil exploration in protected Arctic area

The new Norwegian government will not allow oil exploration or production in a protected area near the Lofoten Islands and the Vesterålen Archipelago, located above the Arctic Circle, reads a declaration submitted by three parties of the newly-established ruling coalition, TASS reports.

Since the 1970s, oil and gas companies have been barred from a vast continental shelf section in the Norwegian Sea for environmental reasons. According to the document, Norwegian authorities do not intend to issue hydrocarbon search and reconnaissance licenses in the next four years; nor do they plan to authorize any other oil and gas companies' projects around the Lofoten and Vesterålen archipelagos and Senja Island. Norway's state-owned energy concern Statoil, which is interested in developing the sectors, will not be allowed to study the potential impact of drilling operations on the protected area's environment, TASS notes. The remote Jan Mayen Island, Skagerrak Strait and areas located less than 50 kilometers from Arctic sea ice boundaries will also remain off limits to oil and gas projects, although these boundaries could be revised in the near future due to Arctic climate change.

Nature conservation organizations and some small parliamentary parties praised the government's decision. Representatives of the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association expressed their disappointment with the decision banning projects to assess the impact of oil production on nature in the protected area.