Greenpeace ordered to stop oil rig disruption

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Greenpeace was last night served with an injunction preventing any further disruption of BP's drilling in Atlantic oil fields off the west coast of Scotland.

Following the decision by the Court of Sessions in Edinburgh, BP offered to suspend its action for pounds 1.4m damages provided the environmental campaigning organisation and its senior campaigners observed the injunction.

"BP's principal concern is not the recovery of damages," the company said, "rather, it is to ensure that its lawful operations are not interfered with and that safety is not compromised. BP has never questioned Greenpeace's right to campaign on climate change issues. But we do object to their employing unlawful tactics."

Greenpeace responded by agreeing to abide by the interdict, but vowed to continue opposing new oil exploration in the Foinaven field and elsewhere.

"BP is one of the richest oil companies in the world and is using its resources to stifle free and open discussion about environmental dangers that will affect us all," said Chris Rose, Greenpeace's acting executive director.

BP is suing Greenpeace for pounds 1.4m in damages for losses during the group's week-long occupation of the Stena Dee oil installation which ended on Sunday. It hopes to have the first of its new fields at Foinaven on stream and producing up to 100,000 barrels of oil a day by the end of the year.

On Monday, a Greenpeace bank account containing pounds 160,000 was frozen by the court and environmentalists claim the legal action could lead to bankruptcy and threaten the pressure group's survival.

John Sauven, a Greenpeace campaign director, accused BP of bullying tactics. "Their profits amount to billions. It's a hugely profitable organisation. By comparison ours is tiny."

Mr Sauven described BP's seizure of assets as "insidious", adding: "We have skirmishes in court all the time but we've never experienced anything like this before."

He believed that BP's legal action against Greenpeace would backfire. It could only suggest that the oil company was extremely concerned about Greenpeace's plans to take on the Government and 21 oil companies, including BP, at the High Court in London next month in an attempt to have the oil exploration licences for the Atlantic frontier declared unlawful.

"One can only conclude that they are worried by the success of what Greenpeace is doing," said Mr Sauven. "They obviously thought they could go to the courts behind our backs and that would be the end of it ... What are they going to achieve by this? All they are doing is getting a lot of bad publicity."

Indeed, various political parties spoke out last night against BP's behaviour. The Liberal Democrats accused BP of "massively over-reacting".

Nick Harvey, the MP for Devon North, said it was "another example of a major multinational company using its massive legal muscle to crush legitimate opposition."

"Instead of putting all their energy into attacking Greenpeace, they should be putting their energy into developing solar power which will help to provide a solution to the challenge of climate change."

The Green Party said it had already called for an international boycott of BP products, particularly petrol stations.

Niki Kortvelyessy, speaker of the European Federation of Green Parties, said that groups in 70 countries would take part in the boycott.

She added: "Oil companies are determined to drain the planet of its last drop of oil, so we can burn it in the atmosphere, resulting in catastrophic change.

"It will be companies like BP who will be on the receiving end of demands for compensation in the future, but the amounts will run into trillions."