BP faces fierce backlash from green groups over new oil well

Campaigners warn that wildlife at Shetland site would be at 'significant risk' from any spill

A A A

BP's plan for a controversial deep-water oil well off Shetland should be halted by the Government, four of Britain's biggest green groups said last night.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Greenpeace, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Friends of the Earth urged the Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, to refuse consent for the oil giant's proposed North Uist well as any spill from it would pose a "significant risk to wildlife" in one of the UK's most environmentally sensitive areas.

In a joint letter to Mr Huhne, the groups' leaders expressed anger that none of them had been made aware of BP's "public consultation exercise" about the well – which ended last week without a single response from the public – and raised concerns about the difficulty of coping with a deep-water oil leak in the hostile conditions of the North Atlantic.

The Independent disclosed yesterday that BP's own worst-case scenario for a spill from North Uist, to be drilled at 1,290 metres, or 4,230ft, below the surface, would involve oil leaking at 75,000 barrels a day for 140 days. This would constitute the worst oil spill in history and one more than twice the size of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico last year that brought the oil giant to the brink of collapse.

BP admits that in the event of a spill, the Shetland Islands – home to the UK's richest seabird breeding grounds, with more than a million birds present in summer – "may be affected."

Last night's letter to Mr Huhne was from Mike Clarke, chief executive of the RSPB; Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland; Stan Blackley, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland; and John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK.

The case for drilling the well is now being examined by Mr Huhne's Department of Energy and Climate Change, which can give or refuse approval.

The four leaders wrote to the minister: "We strongly urge you to refuse consent for this proposed well. It is less than two years since BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and the lessons from this terrible incident are yet to be learned and applied.

"Allowing deep water drilling off Shetland is dangerous and could be very polluting. We believe there is a significant risk to wildlife and protected areas, both around the UK and beyond, from an oil spill that could result from BP drilling this well."

The green leaders also said they were "very disappointed" with BP's consultation process, "which we believe was wholly inadequate, particularly in its failure to proactively engage with key stakeholders such as ourselves".

The comment reflects anger at the perception that BP deliberately tried to bypass potential objectors to the well by giving the consultation exercise very little publicity. None of the groups, who all could be considered prime stakeholders, knew it existed until they saw yesterday's Independent.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions