Greenpeace challenges Gazprom, prevents oil production at Prirazlomnaya field, 2012

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Timing
Time Period:  
24 August
2012
to
21 September
2012
Location and Goals
Country: 
Russia
Location City/State/Province: 
Prirazlomnaya
Location Description: 
Prirazlomnaya is an offshore oil rig in the Arctic Circle
Goals: 
To prevent offshore Arctic oil drilling at the Prirazlomnaya oil field in order to inhibit the escalation of climate change and melting of Arctic sea ice.
 

Gazprom, Russia’s largest oil company, intended to become the first company to drill Arctic oil in the summer of 2012. Gazprom planned to use their aging Prirazlomnaya oil platform to extract oil deposits made newly available with the retreat of Arctic ice on the Pechora Sea. As a part of their “Save the Arctic Initiative” Greenpeace targeted Gazprom in an intense campaign to stop the beginning of Arctic oil drilling.

On 14 August 2012 Greenpeace Russia announced that the Russian Ministry of Emergency confirmed that the oil spill response plan issued to the Prirazlomnaya oil platform had expired, making any oil drilling at the cite illegal under Russian law. At an unknown time following this announcement, a number of previously trained Greenpeace activists discreetly boarded the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise and departed for the Prirazlomnaya oil platform.

At 4am 24 August 2012 six Greenpeace activists, including Executive Director Kumi Naidoo, departed the Arctic Sunrise on three inflatable dories and scaled the oil platform. For five days the activists occupied the platform, facing Gazprom’s violent attempts to disperse them. Activists were blasted with water cannons, and multiple attempts were made to force activists into the sea. According to Greenpeace reporting, the activists only backed down on the fifth day because the last remaining dory was pulled vertically by a Gazprom cable, intentionally dumping all activists into the ocean below.

Coverage of the activist’s occupation of the oil rig spread quickly through international news sources, as well as online through social media. Greenpeace organized online letter writing campaigns as well as petitions. Greenpeace’s “Save the Arctic” initiative used the campaign against Gazprom as a launching point to gain signatures directed to various heads of state asking for a commitment to forbid Arctic drilling. Over 1.7 million signatures were collected, including celebrity endorsements from the likes of Paul McCartney and Penelope Cruz.

Meanwhile, the campaign against Gazprom specifically continued to escalate. Greenpeace was able to charge Gazprom in court for attempting to drill with an expired oil spill permit. In early September Greenpeace activists in Moscow dressed as Polar Bears and protested outside Gazprom’s headquarters. Some activists chained themselves to fences, and police arrested some of these campaigners. Simultaneously, activists in Germany constructed a leaky oil derrick outside Gazprom offices in Berlin. Greenpeace distributed photos from these actions widely, keeping the issue in international news media.

Gazprom attempted to quickly resume drilling, but Greenpeace pressure in the courts and media forced the company to make a statement on 21 September 2012 that it would be unable to resume drilling until the company could “ensure complete safety.”

At the time of writing this entry, Gazprom has been forced to partner with Dutch Shell in order to continue to pursue its desire for Arctic oil. The Prirazlomnaya oil platform is not drilling Arctic oil.

Research Notes
Influences: 

The use of interventionist, small sea vessel obstruction tactics is clearly influenced by Greenpeace's original 1975 anti-whaling campaigns (1). This campaign will likely influence future anti-Arctic drilling campaigns, though none are yet known (2).

Sources: 
Andrew. "LIVE BLOG: New Action to Stop Russian Oil Giant Gazprom's Oil Platform in the Arctic." Greenpeace International. Greenpeace, 27 Aug. 2012. Web. Apr. 2013. <http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/gazprom-russia-arctic-oil-action/blog/41887/>.

Ayliffe, Ben. "Polar Bears Take Action against Gazprom's Arctic Plans." Greenpeace International. Greenpeace, 5 Sept. 2012. Web. Apr. 2013. <http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/polar-bears-take-action-against-gazproms-arct/blog/42001/>.

Gerken, James. "Gazprom's Arctic Drilling Delayed Again." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 21 Sept. 2012. Web. Apr. 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/21/gazprom-arctic-drilling-delayed_n_1902538.html>.

"Greenpeace Activists Board Gazprom Arctic Oil Platform." YouTube. Greenpeace Update, 24 Aug. 2012. Web. Apr. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCFFtUiCvAc>.

"Greenpeace Protest Gazprom Arctic Offshore Drilling." Euronews. Euronews, 6 Sept. 2012. Web. Apr. 2013. <http://www.euronews.com/nocomment/2012/09/06/greenpeace-protest-gazprom-arctic-offshore-drilling-/>.

"Polar Protest: Greenpeace Arctic Drilling Demo Ends in Arrests - RT News." Polar Protest: Greenpeace Arctic Drilling Demo Ends in Arrests - RT News. TV-Novosti, 5 Sept. 2012. Web. Apr. 2013. <http://rt.com/news/greenpeace-gazprom-polar-protest-arrests-447/>.

Wilson, Jessica. "Greenpeace Uncovers Gazprom's Expired Oil Spill Response Plan." Greenpeace International. Greenpeace, 14 Aug. 2012. Web. Apr. 2013. <http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/gazprom-expired-arctic-oil-spill-response-plan/blog/41747/>.

Additional Notes: 
Although Greenpeace advertised this campaign within their "Save the Arctic" initiative, it is crucial to recognize that "Save the Arctic" alone is not a campaign. "Save the Arctic" is a collection of individual campaigns targeting heads of state as well as oil companies. The challenge to Gazprom detailed here is one of these specific campaigns.
Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Pauline Blount, 22/04/2013