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Giant oil rig arrives in Port Angeles as protesters gather on Ediz Hook

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 17.10.51By Chris McDaniel and Paul Gottlieb published 17 April 2015 by Peninsula Daily News

Giant oil rig arrives in Port Angeles as protesters gather on Ediz Hook

PORT ANGELES — A 400-foot-tall offshore oil rig that is expected to be the focus of nonviolent protests later this morning entered Port Angeles Harbor at 7:10 a.m. for a two-week stay.

The Polar Pioneer, being transported piggyback on the MV Blue Marlin, a semi-submersible heavy-lift ship, is expected to anchor in the harbor for routine outfitting before being floated on to Seattle.

Owned by Transocean Ltd., the drilling rig is being escorted by a variety of enforcement agency vessels including Coast Guard control boats and a Clallam County Sheriff’s Office patrol boat.

About eight members of Greenpeace left for the rig in boats that also included journalists at about 5 a.m.

Click here for specifications and data on the Polar Pioneer: http://www.deepwater.com/Documents/RigSpecs/Polar%20Pioneer.pdf

As the Polar Pioneer was making its way into the harbor at about 7 a.m., about 30 members of the protest group Shell No Action boarded kayaks and dinghies to greet it in what organizers said will be a peaceful protest.

Eric Ross of Shell No Action Coalition called the protest a training run for the “festival of resistance” coming up in Seattle on May 16-18.

The ocean oil-drilling process is “a travesty for the environment” and is “damning the next generation,” Ross said.

Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Dana Warr said the agency has received assurances that the protest will be peaceful.

“The word on the street is that there are no intentions to break through any safety zones, that they want to peacefully demonstrate,” he said. “We are glad to hear that news on Day 1.”

He said the Coast Guard is being assisted by the Clallam County Sheriff’s Department, Port Angeles police and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, which, like the Coast Guard, are agencies of the Department of Homeland Security.

The Polar Pioneer will be guarded by Shell Oil security during its stay in the harbor, Warr said.

The protesters say they oppose the resumption of exploratory oil drilling in Arctic waters off Alaska because they say exploration companies are ill-equipped in the event of a spill.

The Polar Pioneer is one of two drill rigs Shell hopes to use for exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea.

Greenpeace protesters will not approach closer than about 1,100 yards to the Polar Pioneer or Blue Marlin, Cassidy Sharp, Greenpeace spokeswoman for the Arctic Works campaign, said Thursday.

That distance restriction was imposed by Alaska U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason, who issued a temporary restraining order April 11 barring Greenpeace from interfering with the Blue Marlin and the Polar Pioneer.

Six activists with Greenpeace boarded the Blue Marlin and Polar Pioneer in the Pacific Ocean about 750 miles from Hawaii last week.

They returned to a nearby Greenpeace ship just hours before a federal judge in Alaska ordered them off the Blue Marlin at the request of Royal Dutch Shell.

Protesters from other groups, including people from Port Angeles, Sequim and Port Townsend can venture closer.

The protesters have said they intend to abide by the restrictions of the 500-yard safety zone while the rig is in motion and 100 yards away when it is stationary.

Shell No Action has several signs they were going to hold while coursing around the safety zone.

Some of the signs read, “Arctic Drilling Equals Climate Chaos” and “Shell Oil Kills.”

“We are super pleased to have everyone” participating, Sharp said.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Chris McDaniel can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052 or at [email protected].

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at [email protected].

SOURCE

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