The United Kingdom-based oil and gas giant BP has been accused of dumping industrial waste in a protected marine wildlife zone in the Atlantic Ocean.
The London-headquartered company, which is frequently described as one of the world's seven largest oil and gas "supermajors", has denied any wrongdoing.
The claim, which was first reported by The Guardian newspaper, alleges the company is in the process of dropping thousands of tons of oil pipes and control cables onto the ocean floor.
The paper says the company sought permission to drop the items in waters 200 kilometers west of the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland, after it had finishing drilling for fossil fuels in the area.
The Guardian said the UK's decommissioning regulator, known as the Off shore Petroleum Regulator for the Environment and Decommissioning, or Opred, gave its approval to the plan.
But critics said the fact that the seabed is part of a marine protection area, or MPA, because of rare giant deep-sea sponges living there and the presence of a slow-growing mollusk called a quahog, means the approval should not have been given.
Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK's chief scientist, told the paper: "The only circumstances in which any company should contemplate dumping hardware onto the seabed in an uncontrolled manner would be to save lives in an emergency. The fact that BP is proposing to do this simply out of expediency is hard to defend."
BP, which has been operating in the area for 25 years, has confirmed it plans to drop 4,608 metric tons of steel cables and anchors used to steady a floating oil ship that is being taken out of service. It also confirmed it will jettison 14 pipes.
But BP told the paper the dumped pipes and cables will have little impact on the seabed, and will be recovered later.
"Our plans to recover and dispose of the … risers and our commitments to minimize impact on the environment as part of our decommissioning process remain unchanged," BP said in a statement. "Solely due to safety considerations, our proposed method of disconnecting the risers has changed, but our plans to recover and dispose of the risers have not. However, it will still be done in a controlled and sequenced manner."
Opred said as it gave its approval that the dumping of the cables and pipes will cause "localized, temporary disturbance of an area of seabed" but contended only a fraction of the MPA will be affected.
The Times newspaper noted that BP originally planned to lower the pipes and cables in a controlled manner but, after delays and with poorer weather on the way, the plans now call for them to be jettisoned in an uncontrolled manner.
Parr said there is also no guarantee the company will collect the waste later and dispose of it properly.