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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Greenpeace Skedaddles from Oil Rig

(CN) - Greenpeace activists abandoned Shell's Alaska-bound oil rig the Polar Pioneer Saturday morning in international waters, almost a week after scaling and lashing themselves to the 38-ton platform on the high seas.

The six climbers departed as they'd arrived, on inflatable boats, claiming victory by putting worldwide focus on Shell's plan to drill for oil in the Arctic this summer.

Aliyah Field, the only American to board the oil rig, said the operation helped fuel a growing movement demanding "better, safer" and "cleaner" energy alternatives.

"We are coming down today and it fills me with a wide range of emotions," Field said. "This has been the single most proud, humbling, and inspiring experience of my life. ... A global movement has grown even stronger over the last days."

Three days earlier, on Wednesday, Shell asked a federal judge in Anchorage for a temporary restraining order to have the activists removed.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason said after the hearing that she planned to ruled in "one or two days," according to Greenpeace.

Greenpeace International legal counsel Daniel Simons, in Amsterdam, said on Friday that Shell sought the restraining order against the wrong organization.

"Shell wrongly attributes the activity in the Pacific to Greenpeace USA," Simons said. "The Esperanza is chartered and operated by Greenpeace International."

He said the Esperanza "flies the flag of the Netherlands" and its activities are tailored after Dutch laws, "which accord wide protection to the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly."

He added: "Dutch law is the law applicable to the Esperanza."

But Gleason granted the temporary restraining order on Friday, noting Shell's claim that Greenpeace USA is "acting in concert" with Greenpeace International and that "Greenpeace USA controls all operations occurring in the U.S. and that no Greenpeace operations are to occur in the U.S. without Greenpeace USA's consent."

Gleason ordered Greenpeace vessels the Blue Marlin, Noble Discoverer and Polar Pioneer not to come within 1,000 meters of Shell vessels while in the "U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, in U.S. navigable and territorial waters and when located in port within the U.S. and its territories," effective April 10.

"The court finds that Greenpeace USA's role in perpetuating the presence of activists aboard the Polar Pioneer creates a likelihood of immediate irreparable harm to Shell," Gleason wrote in a 13-page order. "Individuals that have climbed on to a vessel in the middle of the ocean with the express intention to stop Arctic drilling would appear likely to cause disruption and delay of the vessels intended for the summer drilling program."

The order also prohibits Greenpeace from breaking into or trespassing on Shell vessels and interfering with them in any way while in U.S. waters.

The order expires April 28 and requires a $5,000 bond to cover costs "should it later be determined to have been wrongly issued," Gleason said.

Greenpeace spokeswoman Cassady Sharp in Washington, D.C. told Courthouse News: "Whatever angle Shell plans, everyone is watching what they do. "We have already accomplished what we have set out to do: attract worldwide attention."

A hearing on Shell's motion for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for April 28.

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