OSLO - Arctic nations' plans to start cooperating over oil spills are vague and fail to define companies' liability for any accidents in an icy region opening up due to global warming, environmentalists said on Monday.
A 21-page document by the eight-nation Arctic Council, seen by Reuters and due to be approved in May, says countries in the region "shall maintain a national system for responding promptly and effectively to oil pollution incidents."
It does not say what that means in terms of staff, ships, clean-up equipment or corporate liability in a remote region that the US Geological Survey estimates has 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its undiscovered gas.
The countries have drafted the document as companies including Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips, Lukoil and Statoil are looking north for oil despite high costs and risks. Shell's Kulluk oil rig ran aground in Alaska on December 31 in near hurricane conditions.