San Francisco: Greenpeace activists remained encamped on the Seattle-bound rig Polar Pioneer on Friday, and said they would stay on in defiance even if a US federal court hands down an injunction in favour of the rig operator Shell.
Six protesters daringly scaled the rig on Monday while it was in transit across the Pacific to become part of Shell’s planned Arctic oil exploration fleet which will moor first in Seattle.
Shell wants to restart drilling in Alaskan waters after a three-year hiatus and is just a few permits away from having a clear run at drilling in the Chukchi Sea. Greenpeace is determined to stop the drilling or at least draw major negative publicity to the plan.
The Dutch oil giant’s lawyers appeared in federal court in Anchorage, Alaska on Friday afternoon to argue for a restraining order against Greenpeace, an injunction to end what they call an “illegal boarding”.
If Shell succeeds, the group of six would have to surrender immediately to the master of the Blue Marlin heavy lift vessel, on which the Polar Pioneer is being transported. Shell is also seeking a preliminary injunction, which would keep Greenpeace away from the rest of its Arctic fleet. Judge Sharon Gleason did not issue a ruling on either of Shell’s requests on Friday. A decision is expected in the coming days.
But the environmentalists say even if a ruling favours the company they will ignore it. “We maintain that the US court has no jurisdiction over these activists, who are volunteers from around the world, arriving on the Esperanza, which sails under the Dutch flag,” said Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA.
The Esperanza is the Greenpeace home ship which pursued the Polar Pioneer and from which the six activists launched inflatables to board and scale the rig 750 miles northwest of Hawaii.
The Polar Pioneer and Blue Marlin are not expected to arrive in Seattle for at least four more days from Friday.
In a related matter, government regulators on Friday began a review of Shell’s Arctic drilling plan. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has 30 days to analyse Shell’s exploration plan to determine if the company can move forward. The public will have until April 20 to comment on environmental aspects and until May 1 to comment on the overall revised plan.