OSLO (Reuters) - Norway’s government on Friday decided to study oil drilling in the Barents Sea near the sea boundary with Russia while delaying a formal study of drilling off the Lofoten islands until at least 2013.
Despite shelving a formal drilling study off Lofoten, the cabinet will go ahead with informal “information gathering.”
Below are comments on what the deal means for the oil industry and for Norwegian politics:
“We are very dissatisfied that the impact assessment study for the areas off Lofoten and Vesteraalen is once again postponed.
“The OLF has long been clear that it is essential that the oil industry quickly gains access to new and attractive areas to slow the drop in production on the Norwegian continental shelf and to ensure industrial development, jobs and social welfare.
“It is positive that the government opens up new areas for petroleum activities and initiates work in the Barents Sea (zone). It is however important to underline that the areas in Barents Sea have a completely different time horizon ... (and) cannot replace the importance of Lofoten and Vesteraalen.”
BERNT AARDAL, ANALYST AT THE INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL RESEARCH
“Without an agreement it would have been the end of the red-green coalition.
“The Socialist Left has lost a number of big environmental issues to Labour lately and had to draw the line. If Lofoten went down the drain, it would have been very difficult for the Socialist Left and even the Center Party to stay in the government.
“It would take almost a miracle to save the present government in 2013.”
TORE ROALD SURESNES, CHAIRMAN, FISHING VESSEL OWNERS’ ASSOCIATION
“We are very pleased that the government has decided not to start an impact assessment study of oil exploration off Lofoten and Vesteraalen in the lifetime of this parliament.
“We, along with others, had long warned against oil activities in this vulnerable regions given the presence of fish stocks and marine life.
“At the same time we know that the issue will come up again in 2014 both in Lofoten and Vesteraalen, but also in key (cod) spawning and nursing areas off the coast of the (nearby) Moere region.”
“This is proof that it pays to persevere. We have had the researchers on our side the whole way, with report after report on the various ocean areas in the north. This knowledge combined with fantastic enthusiasm in the whole country has allowed us to stop a powerful and desperate oil lobby.
KETIL SOLVIK-OLSEN, ENERGY POLICY SPOKESMAN, OPPOSITION PROGRESS PARTY
“The research they are going to do should be usable in a future impact assessment, so the two next years spent collecting knowledge will not be wasted.
“Even though the Socialist Left has claimed a victory they have agreed to steps toward an impact report — they just aren’t calling it that.
“I had been afraid we would lose time if the Socialist Left kept delaying things. They have cost us seven years already. But if we are actually going to collect reliable and useful data, the delay can end in 2013.
“If the Labour government brags that things will happen after 2013, what they are really saying is the Socialist Left will no longer be in government.”
Reporting by Oslo newsroom