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Norway to protect Nordland 6 area from drilling, minister says

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OSLO, May 29 (Reuters) -Norway's centre-left government will not open the Arctic Nordland 6 waters for oil and gas exploration, the energy minister told parliament on Wednesday, maintaining a long-held policy of protecting the ecologically vulnerable area.

The opposition Conservative Party on Tuesday said it wanted to allow energy companies to drill in the area, which could hold hundreds of millions of barrels of oil and gas according to official estimates.

"We won't open that area, there are more than enough other areas available to develop the oil and gas industry in a responsible way," Minister of Energy Terje Aasland said.

Norway in 2022 overtook Russia as Europe's biggest gas supplier as Moscow's invasion of Ukraine severed decades-long energy ties.

It also replaced some of the Russian oil banned by the European Union.

While Norway backs the Paris climate accords and the global goal to transition away from fossil fuels, it also says the world will need access to oil and gas for many years to come.

But successive governments since 2001 have prevented oil and gas drilling in Nordland 6 and in waters around the nearby Lofoten and Vesteraalen islands due to environmental concerns over potential damage from any spills.

"This area is protected against (oil and gas) activity," Aasland said.

Reporting by Terje Solsvik; editing by Stine Jacobsen and Jason Neely


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