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U.K. wonders if arctic drilling is safe

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U.K. wonders if arctic drilling is safe
Arctic native people of the Gwich'in Nation form a human banner on the banks of the Porcupine River near Ft. Yukon, Alaska, with a message to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil development on July 21, 2010. The 'Protect' image includes a Porcupine caribou antler and a threatened Yukon River Salmon. UPI/Camila Roy/HO | License Photo

LONDON, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- An environmental committee in the British government is curious to know whether or not drilling in arctic waters is safe, a lawmaker said.

Last year, Cairn Energy said it plugged and abandoned an exploration well off of Greenland's coast "without encountering hydrocarbon shows."

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Cairn had said its campaign for 2011 targeted Greenland's resource potential of 3.2 million barrels of oil equivalent.

A British environmental audit committee could call officials from Cairn, along with their colleagues at BP and Royal Dutch Shell, to discuss potential drilling campaigns in arctic waters.

Joan Walley, chairwoman of the committee, said it was ironic that industrial activity and the use of fossil fuels was melting sea ice, which could spark a race for oil in untapped arctic waters.

The committee, she was quoted by London's Daily Telegraph newspaper as saying, would look into "whether it is even possible to drill for oil and gas safely in such remote regions."

U.S. regulators in December said that if Shell can get the proper environmental approvals, it can start drilling in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska. BP, meanwhile, is locked in legal battles over a deal for access to the arctic.

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Greenpeace said that one exploratory drilling campaign in Greenland's waters discharges more harmful pollutants than all drilling in Norway and Denmark.

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