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Arctic oil spill plan leaked, criticized as 'useless'


A Greenpeace activist covers the logo of the Shell oil company to protest on May 10, 2012 against the heading of the an icebreaker for Shell's Arctic oil drilling project in the north of Alaska.


Michal Cizek

In 2011, eight countries interested in drilling in the Arctic signed a draft response plan for handling potential oil spills. Well now the document has been leaked to the public, and oil companies don't need to worry: the plan is super chill, bro. 

It's more of a plan to make a plan than it is an actual plan. Greenpeace Canada obtained a leaked draft of the treaty and is not happy, the Globe and Mail reported. “The agreement does nothing to protect the Arctic environment and nothing to protect the peoples of the Arctic … it is effectively useless,” said Christy Ferguson, Arctic project leader for Greenpeace Canada.

To be fair, the document does declare that countries "shall maintain a national system for responding promptly and effectively to oil pollution incidents," BBC News reported

More from GlobalPost: Arctic melt opens door for big oil's next boom

Yet the 21-page draft document fails to specify what the "national system" should actually be. "The big glaring hole is that it is such a vaguely worded document that it doesn't seem to force countries into doing anything," Ben Ayliffe from Greenpeace told BBC News.

For example, it stops short of listing requirements for staff, ships, clean-up equipment or corporate liability, Reuters reported. This is troubling because some experts don't think countries are capable of cleaning up a potential oil spill in the Arctic just yet. "Present oil spill response technology right now can't effectively collect oil in ice-covered waters and it remains difficult even to detect a spill on water in permanent darkness and bad weather," Per Olav Moslet, a top Arctic technology expert, told Reuters.

Oh yeah, the document is also non-binding, Reuters reported. An added bonus the agreement is "subject to the capabilities of the parties and the availability of relevant resources." So if a country is too hung over to cleanup oil that day, it could totally just say that it's resources aren't available.