Oceana takes legal steps against UK over oil and gas licenses

Oceana takes legal steps against UK over oil and gas licenses

Ocean conservation organization Oceana UK announced on Wednesday that it is preparing to sue the United Kingdom government over the severe threat posed to marine life by the latest licenses for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea.

Oceana claims that the decision to issue these new licenses is unlawful on multiple grounds. It fails to consider the extreme impacts of oil spills and the climate crisis on marine life.

Between October 2023 and May 2024, the NSTA issued 82 licenses for exploratory oil and gas drilling, covering 226 blocks. Over a third of these blocks overlap with Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

The organization argues that the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero and the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) ignored advice from independent government experts regarding the potential effects on MPAs.

“This is not a case of misunderstanding or lack of information. This is a deliberate choice to unlawfully ignore expert advice and jeopardize our seas, climate, and future,” said Hugo Tagholm, executive director of Oceana UK. “The truth is, chronic oil spills are already polluting UK seas. Seismic blasting is deafening whales. Drilling is destroying reefs.”

“The Secretary of State has completely failed to consider the knock-on climate change effect that further fossil fuel extraction will have on our seas. Oceana hopes the Secretary of State decides not to defend this legal claim, but our client is prepared to pursue it if that becomes necessary,” solicitor Rowan Smith from law firm Leigh Day said.

North Sea Oil and Gas

First, seismic surveys are conducted to extract oil and gas from the North Sea. These send shock waves into the seabed. As these waves bounce back, they provide information about the geological structures below, helping to identify locations for drilling.

Drilling for oil and gas leads to physical disturbances in the sea floor and marine habitats. Noise from drilling, shipping, and other activities affects whales, dolphins, seals, and other marine mammals. It impacts their behavior, migratory patterns, and reproductive success.

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