Occupation of BP's Arctic Barge Ends in Arrests

BARROW, Alaska, August 9, 2000 (ENS) - The occupation of a British Petroleum (BP) barge working in the Arctic Ocean ended Tuesday when Alaska state troopers boarded the vessel and arrested five Greenpeace activists.

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Construction on the Northstar site. (Photo courtesy BP)
The five began their occupation of the 130 meter (422 foot) barge Monday, claiming BP Exploration Alaska's Northstar Development will fuel global warming and open the Arctic to offshore oil expansion.

The arrested are Americans Matteo Williford and Kimberely Medeiros, and Britons Stephanie Tunmore, Stan Vincent and Kevin Benn.

The barge had been carrying a control center and accommodation to the Northstar site, which encompasses about 60 square miles in the Beaufort Sea, about six miles from Prudhoe Bay.

Construction of the $686 million project, the Arctic Ocean's first offshore oil installation, is more than half complete. Production is due to begin in late 2001.

"We occupied the barge for 39 hours, which is a small reprieve for the climate," said climate campaigner Melanie Duchin, speaking from the Greenpeace ship the MV Arctic Sunrise.

"Our campaign to stop Northstar goes on, as does our work to force BP to fulfill its green image by halting new oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean and reinvesting the savings into funding the solar revolution. Anything less than that is simply hot air and will continue to fuel climate change in the Arctic and around the world."

Greenpeace believes that if oil drilling is allowed to go ahead, it will fuel global warming in the very location must vulnerable to climate change. According to Greenpeace figures, the western Arctic is warming three to five times faster than the global average, threatening the hunting and breeding grounds of marine mammals.

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Henk Haazen was one of three Greenpeace campaigners arrested at the Northstar site in March. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace International)
A study published last month by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) shows Greenland's ice sheet, which holds almost 10 percent of the world's frozen water, is melting at a rate of more than three feet a year in places. NASA's aerial survey shows that more than 11 cubic miles (51 cubic kilometers) of ice is vanishing from the Greenland ice sheet each year.

It is not the first time arrests have been made near the Northstar site. In March, three Greenpeace activists holding a banner reading "Global Warming Starts Here" were arrested by Alaska state troopers.

Greenpeace appealed to BP shareholders in April to vote for a resolution calling for the Northstar project to be cancelled. The resolution was defeated but secured 13.5 percent of the vote, which was hailed as a victory by Greenpeace.

Lawsuits are pending in U.S. federal and Alaska State courts, challenging the project on several issues, including water use, oil spills and the cumulative impact of offshore oil on the climate and ecology of the Alaskan Arctic.

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Costumed Greenpeacers deliver shareholder resolution to BP headquarters in London in April. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace/Robinson)
BP Exploration Alaska spokesman Ronnie Chappell told ENS Monday that the Northstar Development would have no adverse impact on the environment.

"People need fossil fuels like oil and gas and we are committed to meeting that demand," he said. "We are also one of the few companies that have committed to reducing our own CO2 emissions."

BP aims to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by 10 percent from a 1990 baseline over the period to 2010.