18 U.S. Senators Want Shell Stopped


By Wendy Laursen 2015-05-24 19:15:53

A group of 18 mostly Democratic U.S. senators on Friday urged the Obama administration to stop Shell's preparations for oil exploration in the Arctic, saying the region has a severely limited capacity to respond to accidents.

The senators, from both coasts and several Midwestern states, sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, urging her to retire Arctic leases in the Chukchi Sea.

Jewell's department earlier this month conditionally approved Shell's exploration plan in the Arctic. The move means the company is likely to return to the Chukchi Sea this summer for the first time since 2012.

Earlier this month, hundreds of activists in kayaks protested in Elliott Bay in Seattle. The latest protests this weekend resulted in U.S. Coast Guard personnel assisting in the removal of an activist who secured himself to the anchor chain of the support vessel Arctic Challenger in Bellingham, north of Seattle in Washington State.

Matt Fuller requested Coast Guard assistance down from the vessel's anchor chain at approximately 4:30 a.m. on Sunday morning and was taken to Coast Guard Station Bellingham.

A second activist, Chiara Rose D’Angelo, remained attached to the Arctic Challenger’s anchor chain on Sunday after climbing the chain on Friday night.

The Arctic Challenger is part of a fleet of vessels Shell expects to use in its drilling program. The converted barge is designed to launch oil spill containment equipment, but some activists have questioned its effectiveness in Arctic conditions.

The Coast Guard has cited four people for violation of the 100-yard safety zone around the Arctic Challenger and has terminated the voyage of two vessels determined to not have had the required safety gear including operating without navigational lights after sunset. A small inflatable raft was held due to lack of proof of ownership.

Lt. Cmdr. Justin Noggle, chief of enforcement at Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound, in Seattle, said: "The Coast Guard respects the First Amendment Rights of people to safely and lawfully assemble on the water. To that end, we will enforce those laws and regulations necessary to ensure the safety of the maritime public."

Violation of the safety zone can result in possible civil or criminal penalties. Whether intentional or unintentional, interference with these vessels has the potential to result serious injury, death or pollution in the highly sensitive ecosystem of Puget Sound, says the Coast Guard.