Oil platforms should be left to rot at sea, says Bellamy

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT and Greenpeace were wrong to insist redundant oil platforms be brought back to land and recycled, David Bellamy said.

Professor Bellamy , Britain's best-known environmentalist, said there would be greater environmental benefit leaving them at sea. He added that the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, had failed to answer letters in which he asked the Government to justify recycling. ``It hasn't been thought out,'' Professor Bellamy said yesterday. ``There is a lot of muddy mysticism going on.''

At a treaty meeting in Portugal in July Mr Prescott agreed that all Britain's redundant platforms should be recycled. Professor Bellamy's comments come two weeks before a treaty to ban dumping the structures in the North Sea and north-east Atlantic comes into force. Britain has signed.

The professor said most scientists agreed that, provided toxic waste was removed, platforms would ``gently rot away'', doing no harm. They would boost marine life by adding iron, an important marine fertiliser, to the sea. They had been left in the Gulf of Mexico because they form reefs where fish congregate. Professor Bellamy says they could do the same off Britain, and could also demarcate "no-fishing" zones in the over- exploited North Sea, since trawlers stayed away for fear of snagging nets.

A halt to recycling could also save money. The Government says it will cost pounds 10bn to bring the 250 platforms in British waters back to shore and cut them up for scrap. Much of this will borne by taxpayers, because the owners can claim tax relief. Professor Bellamy said that if they were not recycled, there were better ways of spending the money saved. Some should go on reducing over-fishing, compensating fishermen for scrapping boats or paying them to acquire less destructive nets.

A spokesman for Mr Prescott said the Environment Department had corresponded with Professor Bellamy. Recycling steel in the platforms ``had considerable environmental benefits.''

A Greenpeace campaigner, Simon Reddy, condemned Professor Bellamy's argument. ``This is ludicrous ... If you allow oil companies to leave these structures you are telling industry . . . you can use the sea as a dumping-ground."