Norway slashes offshore O&G reserves estimate; enviros renew call for permanent protection

(Reuters) - Norway on Friday slashed about a third off its oil and gas resource estimate for the waters off the Lofoten and Vesteraalen islands, bolstering those who oppose opening up the pristine Arctic region for drilling.

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, a government agency tasked with developing the country's offshore oil and gas riches, said the Arctic island waters could hold around 1.3 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

This estimate comes after seismic studies of the waters and compares to a previous one of about 2 billion barrels. Norway's government is due to decide on Lofoten drilling in late 2010.

Environmentalists argue that keeping the Lofotens free from drilling is the only way to avoid accidents that may irreparably damage its eco-system, rich fishing waters and image as one of Europe's last tourist destinations unspoiled by modern industry.

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