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Arctic oil spill response plan slammed

Feb. 4, 2013 at 4:20 PM   |   Comments

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Environmental groups say a draft plan of how countries would have to respond to an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean is inadequate and vague.

As oil companies talk of increased exploration in the region because summer ice has declined in recent years, ministers from the eight Arctic Council nations are preparing to discuss the plan at a meeting in Sweden this week, the BBC reported Monday.

The council members -- the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland -- signed a declaration in 2011 committing them to develop an international agreement on how to respond to oil spills in the northern seas.

Environmentalists said a release of a draft of the plan shows it to be inadequate.

"The big glaring hole is that it is such a vaguely worded document that it doesn't seem to force countries into doing anything," Ben Ayliffe from Greenpeace told BBC News.

He criticized the plan for not containing any clear requirements on the number of ships or personnel that would be made available to cope with a spillage.

"For all intents and purposes it is a useless document," he said.

Sweden's ambassador to the Arctic Council, Gustaf Lind, rejected the Greenpeace claims.

"The agreement is a great step forward for the protection of the Arctic from an oil spill because it sets up a system for the states to co-operate in practice," he said.

"I think Greenpeace misses the target because they criticize the agreement for not regulating oil companies; that is not the purpose of it at all."

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