Norway may decide on Lofoten study in March

STAVANGER, Norway (Reuters) - Norway’s government may decide in March whether to do an impact assessment study on allowing oil and gas activities in the pristine Lofoten archipelago in the Arctic, a senior official said on Thursday.

“The management plan (of Lofoten will be presented) at the end of the first quarter this year. So by the end of March it should be put forward by the ministry of environment,” Per Rune Henriksen, deputy oil and energy minister, told Reuters.

Environmentalists have repeatedly said that if the “updated management plan for the Barents Sea and the Lofotens” envisages the impact assessment report, it would amount to a big step toward opening the region for exploration.

Henriksen declined to comment on the progress of the Lofoten debate within the ruling coalition, which includes the senior Labour party that has in the past backed oil interests and two small green parties fiercely set against opening the region.

The region is home to one of the world’s largest cod stock and would require drilling closer to shore than in other places offshore Norway, increasing the danger from any spills.