Shell Files Complaint about Greenpeace Activists

Greenpeace climbers

By MarEx 2015-04-08 20:44:38

Royal Dutch Shell said it has filed a complaint in federal court in Alaska seeking an order to remove Greenpeace activists who climbed aboard an oil rig in the Pacific Ocean bound for the Arctic on Monday in a protest against Arctic drilling.

Shell’s lawsuit aims to gain the immediate issue of a temporary restraining order and injunction blocking Greenpeace from "unlawful or unsafe interference" on the company's Arctic assets, including its drilling rigs and a fleet of support vessels. 

If granted, the order would require the protesters to leave the Blue Marlin and impose a safety zone around the company's vessels, reports the Houston Chronicle. Shell won a similar court order in 2012 to keep protesters from encroaching on its rigs and ships, but this is no longer in force. The new suit is assigned to the same district court judge that granted the order three years ago.

The company argues if Greenpeace's activities are left unsanctioned, they will cause irreparable harm and monetary damages by delaying or preventing Shell from transporting its vessels to the Chukchi Sea. Only a few ice-free months are expected there this summer. 

“Greenpeace is well aware that even short delays in the Arctic can stop exploration for the season and has used that tactic successfully against other companies,” says Shell.

The environmental group said in a statement its team would occupy the underside of the main deck of the Polar Pioneer, which is under contract to Shell, and plans to unfurl a banner with the names of millions of people opposed to Arctic drilling. The group said the activists would not interfere with the vessel's navigation.

"We're here to highlight that in less than 100 days Shell is going to the Arctic to drill for oil," 32-year-old Johno Smith, one of the six to board the Blue Marlin, the ship carrying the rig, said in the statement.

Six Greenpeace climbers scaled the 38,000 ton Polar Pioneer 750 miles north-west of Hawaii. The six are from the U.S., Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden and Austria. 

Shell said in an emailed statement that it has met with groups against oil drilling off Alaska's shores and "respect their views" but condemned the boarding.

"We can confirm that protesters from Greenpeace have illegally boarded the Polar Pioneer, under contract to Shell, jeopardizing not only the safety of the crew on board, but the protesters themselves," Shell said.

The move comes just days after the U.S. Interior Department upheld a 2008 lease sale in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska, moving Shell a step closer to returning to oil and gas exploration in the Arctic since it suffered mishaps in the region in 2012.

Many environmentalists oppose offshore energy exploration in the Arctic, saying that once production begins any oil spill would be extremely difficult to clean up.

Oil industry interests say the Arctic will be important to the United States' energy security in coming decades when output from shale formations is expected to wane.

Image: Vincenzo Floramo / Greenpeace