Deep Sea Oil Drilling Ban Rejected By European Nations

09/23/2010 12:38 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

OSLO, Norway — Oil-producing countries on Thursday rejected a German proposal for a moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Northeast Atlantic that reflected environmental concerns after the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

At a meeting of environment ministers and officials from 15 European countries and the European Union, Germany suggested that offshore nations consider a temporary halt to the "drilling of new complex deep-water oil exploration wells."

Greenpeace activists said offshore oil nations including Norway, Denmark and Britain opposed the draft at the two-day meeting in Norway's west coast city of Bergen. Stefan Krug, a spokesman for Greenpeace Germany, called it "a shame" that host Norway was "not able to agree to adequate and urgent measures."

Norwegian Environment Ministry spokesman Gard Nybro-Nielsen confirmed the German proposal was off the table.

Oil and gas resources in the North Sea have made Norway one of the richest countries in the world, but those resources are running out. Feeling the pressure, Norway is also exploring in the Barents Sea in the Arctic.

Norwegian Environment Minister Erik Solheim told The Associated Press that Norway will not authorize new deep-water drilling until the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf has been evaluated, but doesn't support an international moratorium.

President Barack Obama imposed a U.S. deepwater drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico following the April 20 oil well blowout that killed 11 workers and spewed more than 200 million gallons of crude into the Gulf before it was capped in July.

The German proposal also called for making sure that offshore operations meet the highest safety standards and demanded an analysis of whether the circumstances that led to the Deepwater Horizon accident could also occur in the Northeast Atlantic.

"It was important to us that this issue was on the agenda," said Thomas Hagbeck, a spokesman for Germany's environmental agency.

EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik attended the meeting along with envoys from Norway, Germany, Denmark, Britain, Belgium, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.


Associated Press Writer Melissa Eddy in Berlin contributed to this report.