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The uncertainties of precaution: Zero discharges in the Barents Sea


  • Knol, Maaike


This paper describes and analyzes the application of the precautionary principle in the regulation of operational discharges from offshore petroleum activities. Norway implemented a zero discharge policy in line with international agreements. However, companies are obliged to follow considerably stricter requirements in the Barents Sea compared to other parts of the Norwegian Continental Shelf. This paper follows the development of the zero discharge measure and analyzes what it implies for activities in the Barents Sea. Several "uncertainties of precaution" are discussed, which relate to technological issues, monitoring, compliance and unintended environmental consequences. Precautionary action should be scrutinized for its proportionality: how do the benefits of the measure relate to the technological, financial and environmental costs? It is concluded that the most (cost-) effective solutions that could lead to the lowest total environmental harm are not always the solutions that are most politically feasible.

Suggested Citation

  • Knol, Maaike, 2011. "The uncertainties of precaution: Zero discharges in the Barents Sea," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 399-404, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:marpol:v:35:y:2011:i:3:p:399-404

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    Cited by:

    1. Finch, John & Geiger, Susi & Reid, Emma, 2017. "Captured by technology? How material agency sustains interaction between regulators and industry actors," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 160-170.


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