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Protesters say Shell can’t freeze them out

By Jennifer A. Dlouhy: Published 11:02 p.m., Friday, June 29, 2012

WASHINGTON – An aggressive legal strategy by Shell Oil Co. that aims to keep environmentalists from interfering with its drilling rigs has only emboldened activists who plan to protest and closely scrutinize the company’s Arctic drilling operations this summer.

Greenpeace activists have set sail in an ice-class ship, the Esperanza, and will be following Shell’s work from a distance, checking on marine life and using acoustic equipment to monitor how much sound is coming from the company’s oil drilling.

In May, anti-corporate pranksters The Yes Men staged an elaborate – and entirely fake – Arctic drilling celebration at Seattle’s Space Needle, complete with a derrick-shaped drink dispenser that spewed dark oil-like liquid all over a guest. A video of the hoax on YouTube steered millions of viewers to a fake Shell website and “Let’s Go! Arctic” advertisements.

Environmental activists say they are finding new ways to shine a spotlight on Shell’s Arctic drilling plans, following the company’s successful pursuit of a federal injunction that bars protesters from encroaching on Shell’s drilling rigs or support ships in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska. Violations would mean hefty fines and potential jail time.

Pete Slaiby, vice president of Shell’s Alaska venture, said that if a protester boards a drilling rig or support vessel, “it presents a hazard to the people who are doing it, the people who are working on the assets and the law enforcement folks who will have to do something about it.”

Greenpeace members were arrested in February after they boarded the Discoverer drillship as it sailed from New Zealand to Seattle.

In response, Shell persuaded a federal judge to issue an injunction barring Greenpeace from interfering with Shell’s Arctic drilling operations.

“We know there is an injunction in place, but we will act according to what we think is in the best interests of the planet,” Greenpeace senior oceans campaigner Jackie Dragon said.

“It does make things difficult, but it certainly isn’t something that is going to stop us,” Dragon said. “All they are doing is emboldening us to find better ways to get the word out.”

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