Greenpeace blocks oil company’s office in Brazil

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A Greenpeace activist dressed as an oil-covered humpback whale protests at the office of OGX Brasil in Rio de Janeiro Wednesday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO — Greenpeace activists shut down a petroleum services company Wednesday to protest oil exploration near a Brazilian marine national park.

Two groups of activists took part: those dressed as humpback whales and others dressed in suits and masks that resembled the face of Eike Batista, the Brazilian billionaire who controls the oil-services and shipbuilding company OGX Brasil. The Batista look-alikes dumped oil on top of the protesters dressed as whales in front of OGX’s headquarters.

Humpback whales breed near Abrolhos, an archipelago off the coast of the northeastern state of Bahia that is home to the Abrolhos Marine National Park.

Greenpeace wants oil companies to agree to a 20-year moratorium on oil exploration near the islands so the whales have time to reproduce and increase their population, said Ricardo Baitelo, the international organization’s energy-campaign coordinator for Brazil.

The national park is the only area in the south Atlantic where the whales breed, making it essential to their survival, Baitelo said.

OGX director Paulo Mendonca said their operations are fully compliant with Brazilian legislation.

“The company considers the Abrolhos Marine National Park important for biodiversity, and believes it should be preserved,” Mendonca said in a written statement.

Greenpeace kicked off its moratorium campaign this year in response to a federal court’s decision in December to allow oil exploration within a previously protected, 30-mile radius of the national park.

Shortly after the decision, the National Petroleum Agency opened bidding for exploration licenses on 16 blocks that were completely or partially included in the previously protected area, the agency said in a statement issued at the time.

Companies that landed the licenses included Petrobras, Shell, Perenco and Batista’s OGX, among others.

Greenpeace would like to protect nearly 37,000 square miles of territory, including the park, Baitelo said.

Brazil’s state-run oil giant Petrobras responded that it wasn’t going to explore within the 30-mile radius.

But others didn’t respond, including OGX and Perenco, an Anglo-French oil and gas company.

Greenpeace protested at Perenco’s Rio de Janeiro office on Tuesday.

“We’re trying to push them to give us an answer now,” Baitelo said.