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Shell war on Greenpeace

September 23, 2012

Royal Dutch Shell is taking Greenpeace International to court in an attempt to have it banned from holding any protest within 500 metres of Shell property or face a fine of $1.25 million.

The suit lodged at Amsterdam’s district court on Friday shows Shell aggressively taking the offensive to protect its $4 billion investment in drilling for oil in Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska. A verdict is expected in two weeks.

Shell is headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, and Greenpeace International is based in Amsterdam.

The oil company said in a statement several of Greenpeace’s recent actions ”have gone well beyond the limits of acceptable protest”.

”Shell continues to respect the legitimate right of people to peacefully protest against the activities we undertake to ensure the world’s energy needs are met,” it said.

Shell asked for the ban to go into effect immediately and last six months. Although Shell said the ban it was seeking was limited to the Netherlands, a Greenpeace spokesman, Aaron Gray-Block, said Shell was also asking that Greenpeace International not support such actions in other countries.

Greenpeace called the move a ”legal sledgehammer to stifle public discourse”.

The group argues drilling in the Arctic is inherently risky and Shell’s safety plans are inadequate. But Shell has fought its way through numerous environmental and safety challenges in the US licensing process before being granted two permits for exploratory drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.

The company expects the projects to create hundreds of jobs.

Greenpeace activists have been involved in two attempts to stop Shell-owned ships from travelling to the Arctic. In May a US court ordered the organisation to remain at least a kilometre away from any of Shell’s ships bound for Alaska.

Greenpeace has protested against Arctic drilling with other stunts around the world, but the trigger for Friday’s lawsuit was a Dutch demonstration on September 14 in which Greenpeace protesters blocked more than 70 Shell gas stations in the Netherlands for several hours, draping banners and clamping gas pump handles with bike locks.

”Because Greenpeace International doesn’t operate alone, but is the spider in the web of national and local organisations, our request includes that Greenpeace inform its satellite organisations that it no longer supports protests that are solely directed at causing Shell economic damage or that bring human lives and the environment in danger,” Shell’s complaint said.

A Greenpeace campaigner, Ben Ayliffe, said Shell was ”in no position to accuse others of being reckless or unsafe”, given the difficulties the company might face if an offshore spill occurred in the Arctic during bad weather.

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