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Repsol scraps Canary Island oil exploration after intense campaign

Canary Island oil exploration

Creative Commons: 2006

Energy giant Repsol has announced it will abandon its controversial search for oil and gas off the Spanish Canary Islands, a move that will delight locals and environmentalists following an intense campaign against the company’s plans.

The exploration plans had outraged local and international environmentalists who warned an oil spill or drilling vibrations would threaten the region’s dolphin and whale populations and impact local tourism.

After two months of exploration – taking place 50 kilometres from the islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura off the coast of North Africa – Repsol announced it would be ending its drilling in the region.

The official reason given for dropping the company’s plans was that the gas deposits found in the seabed were “lacking the volume and quality required to consider future extraction.”

The case was welcomed as a huge victory by the Canarian population, local governments, NGOs and citizens who had fought hard to protect the region from the threat of oil expansion.

As part of the campaign, over 41,000 people signed a petition calling for an end to drilling in the area, while a November 2014 poll by the regional government showed that three out of four Canaries residents were opposed to the drill plans.

Greenpeace have welcomed Repsol’s announcement but demanded the company and the government carry out a full evaluation of the drilling on wildlife in the area.

In November last year, during a seaborne protest against the drilling, three Spanish navy boats rammed vessels occupied by Greenpeace activists as they approached the Rowan Renaissance, the boat Repsol was using for exploration.

During the action, one Italian protester fell in the water and was hurt.

WWF have also welcomed the latest Repsol announcement but continue to call on the government to enlarge a proposed marine protected area in the Canary Islands and create a sanctuary for whales and dolphins.

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