Regulatory policies for using oil dispersants in the Barents Sea
Use of dispersants requires assessment of which environmental values are at stake. In the Barents Sea this issue is of high concern as large oil spills can cause transboundary pollution, affecting the interests of two neighbouring countries. The Joint Contingency Plan in the Barents Sea does not set any specific requirements for use of dispersants and lets Norway and Russia follow their national procedures. The Plan emphasizes that in case of transboundary pollution the decision to use dispersants shall only be undertaken upon common agreement. The paper presents a comparison of the national regulatory approaches of Norway and Russia to using dispersants. The research is based on the analysis of legislative documents and interviews with oil companies, oil spill responders and relevant national authorities. The research reveals that in both countries use of dispersants requires preliminary authorization of the national agencies. In Norway the pre-approval procedure and the algorithm of dispersants involvement in response to a real accident are clearly documented and are regularly tested. This has made the process of approval for using dispersants more efficient. In Russia the lack of practical experience in using dispersants and well-established approval procedures can result in a long and unclear permitting process for each oil spill case. This could seriously hinder the use of dispersants to combat transboundary pollution in the Barents Sea, even if it is considered to be beneficial. We conclude that the development of a harmonized approach for dispersants use in the Barents Sea should be thoroughly assessed.
Keywords: Oil spill; Arctic; Barents Sea; dispersants; Norway; Russia.(Published: 15 April 2015)
Citation: Polar Research 2015, 34, 24326, http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/polar.v34.24326
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