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Giant oil rig arrives in Port Angeles as protesters take to waters off Ediz Hook

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Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 19.53.25Giant oil rig arrives in Port Angeles as protesters take to waters off Ediz Hook

By Chris McDaniel and Paul Gottlieb: Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A 355-foot-tall offshore oil rig entered Port Angeles Harbor at 7:10 a.m. for a two-week stay, and it was met with protesters in kayaks and inflatable boats obeying a Coast Guard safety perimeter around the huge vessel.

Greenpeace protesters wrapped up early in the afternoon, said Cassidy Sharp, Greenpeace spokeswoman for the Arctic Works campaign. It was uncertain if protesters will be active on Sunday.

Protest was made without incident, said Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Dana Warr.

“Everybody went out and protested peacefully and respected the federal regulations around the vessels, and they stayed safe during the vessel’s maneuvering for position for anchorage,” Warr said.

“We consider that a success for the day.”

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

It arrived in the Strait of Juan de Fuca before daybreak to end a Pacific Ocean journey from Malaysia.

The oil rig will be moved from the Blue Marlin sometime in the next few days before it is outfitted, said Megan Baldino, Shell Oil Company spokeswoman.

She said that Port Angeles Harbor offered ideal protection for the Blue Marlin during a heavy lift operation.

Owned by Transocean Ltd., the drilling rig was 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.

The structure is 355 feet from the water line to the top, according to Baldino.

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 inflatables to greet it.

Eric Ross of Shell No Action Coalition called the protest a training run for the “festival of resistance” 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.

Warr said that the Coast Guard was assisted by the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, Port Angeles Police Department 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, adding that Shell Oil also has a security ship.

The protesters oppose the resumption of exploratory oil drilling in Arctic waters off Alaska. 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 were constrained from approaching closer than about 1,100 yards to the Polar Pioneer or Blue Marlin 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 could venture closer.

The safety zones are 500 yards when the rig is in motion and 100 yards away when it is stationary.

“It was good to see that everybody respected those boundaries,” Warr said.

“At the same time we are glad that everybody was able to express their opinion,” he said.

“Hopefully, we can continue the same relationship during the time it is in Puget Sound.”

Shell No Action protesters held signs as they coursed around the safety zone this morning.

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

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


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].

Last modified: April 17. 2015 7:23PM

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