A federal judge in Alaska yesterday expanded a restraining order preventing activists from disrupting Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s oil drilling activities this summer in the Arctic Ocean.
Judge Sharon Gleason of the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska extended an injunction against Greenpeace activists to as far as 200 miles from the U.S. shore, a significant expansion to a ban in March that extended to the nation’s 12 miles of territorial waters (EnergyWire, March 30).
The restraining order bans activists from approaching drilling vessels operated by Shell, which plans to drill up to five new wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas beginning in July. Wells would be drilled 18 miles off the Beaufort coast and 70 miles off the Chukchi coast.
Shell sought the restraining order after Greenpeace protesters in New Zealand climbed aboard Shell’s drillship, the Noble Discoverer, in an effort to prevent it from being moved to the Chukchi (E&ENews PM, Feb. 23).
Earlier this month, dozens of Greenpeace Nordic activists occupied a Shell-contracted icebreaker in Finland that the group said was preparing to depart for the Alaskan Arctic. Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said at-sea boarding attempts off the coast of Sweden and Denmark have also occurred.
“We are very pleased the court decided to modify the terms of the original injunction,” Smith said yesterday in an email. “Greenpeace activists have consistently endangered the safety of the crews aboard Shell-charted vessels and this ruling could add an additional measure of safety for our personnel and our assets during the summer drilling season.”
In a May 14 letter to Greenpeace New Zealand, Curtis Frasier, Shell’s executive vice president, said the company remains willing to meet with the group to discuss its opposition to the project.
But he warned that the group would be held accountable for losses that could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars if the company’s plans are derailed. Shell has invested more than $4 billion on its Arctic drilling program, he said.
“Although Shell respects your right to hold and express contrary views, I must convey to you the seriousness with which Shell regards unlawful and unsafe activities intended to stop, delay or otherwise interfere with Shell’s lawful business activities,” he wrote in a letter that was also sent to Greenpeace offices in Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, Hungary, Scandinavia, Japan, the Mediterranean, Poland, Greece, the Czech Republic, Belgium and Canada, according to the group.
Greenpeace’s New Zealand affiliate responded in a blog post saying it intends to continue “standing up to Shell.”