A major gas field development in the Arctic Circle’s Barents Sea has won official approval from the European Free Trade Area, much to the dismay of environmentalists. Norway’s state-owned energy group Statoil is running the $5.8 billion project, which will be the first commercial exploration of fossil fuel in the region and Europe’s first offshore liquefied natural gas project. Known as Snow White, the project is being warmly welcomed by residents of the far northern town of Hammerfest, which will host the main on-land power production and benefit from a surge in job opportunities and economic investment. But environmentalists fear the energy project will damage the fragile northern marine ecosystem and open the floodgates for further development in the region.

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