The Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy announced this week that it will open a tender for a record number of oil exploration blocks, 93 in the Barrents Sea and nine in the Norwegian Sea.

This despite requests from the Norwegian Environment Agency to remove about 20 blocks near Bear Island, a major nesting site for birds in the Arctic. The news was released this week by AFP and Reuters agencies.

“The opening of new exploration points supports long-term activity, value creation and employment in the oil industry across the country,” Terje Søviknes, the oil and energy minister said in a statement. The deadline to register for the 24th round of bidding runs until November 30, and the goal is to announce the winners in the first half of 2018, the ministry said.

But the location of dozens of these blocks is against the advice of government agencies such as the Department for the Environment, the Fisheries Directorate and the Norwegian Polar Institute, all of them concerned about its proximity to ice or the effect of seismic shots on fishes.

The country’s latest oil tender received strong criticism from environmentalists who said that Western Europe’s main oil and gas producer was ignoring the Paris climate deal in 2015.

“This is an attack on the environment,” Greenpeace Norway’s Truls Gulowsen told Reuters. “It’s a confirmation that the Norwegian government does not take its own climate commitments seriously.”

In turn, the oil industry organization, Norsk olje og Gass, welcomed the government announcement, saying it would bring “great value to the Norwegian society.”


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