Greenpeace Protesters Barred from Approaching Shell Vessels
Thursday, March 29 2012
It’s highly unlikely that Unalaskans will get to see the likes of Xena, Warrior Princess, chained to a Shell drill ship this summer.
U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason has granted an injunction that would prevent Greenpeace protesters from coming near Shell Oil vessels while they’re within 12 nautical miles of U.S. coastline. If Greenpeace protesters try to board Shell’s assets, like Lucy Lawless recently did in New Zealand, a court could find them in contempt and levy a heavy fine and even require jail time. They also can’t go within a kilometer of their two drill ships or within 500 meters of Shell’s 20-odd support vessels.
Curtis Smith is a spokesperson for Shell, and he says that he’s pleased the court is upholding the restraining order.
“Really, it comes down to the fact that we respect anybody’s right to peacefully protest our aspirations for the Arctic,” says Smith. “But we cannot sit back and condone the illegal and frankly unsafe tactics that Greenpeace has in store.”
For its part, Greenpeace said earlier this month that it didn’t have any plans to come up to Alaska, and their deputy campaign director said on Thursday that this injunction won’t really have any practical effect on them. Dan Howells says that the environmental group is more focused on blocking Arctic drilling through litigation. He was, however, frustrated by the injunction, and thought it was excessive that Greenpeace protesters would be required to maintain a kilometer-distance from Shell’s drill ships.
“It strikes a little bit of desperation of not wanting to have the public eye on what they’re doing aside from the slick videos they put out and the PR they put out,” says Howells.
Shell will be bringing 22 assets up to Unalaska in June in preparation for exploratory drilling in the Beaufort Sea. The Environmental Protection recently granted air permits for their vessels, and the company is generally on track to start drilling in July. The U.S. Coast Guard has already made plans to ramp up their presence in the community to limit the risk of protesters shutting down the Port of Dutch Harbor. The Coast Guard has not yet commented on whether the injunction will affect their plans, and they did not respond to an interview request in time for this story.