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Shell, Greenpeace headed back to court Thursday

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Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 14.36.19BY ELWOOD BREHMER, ALASKA JOURNAL OF COMMERCE: 30 July 2015

Shell and Greenpeace USA will go back to court Thursday to determine if Greenpeace protesters are violating a court injunction after a Wednesday teleconference hearing before Alaska U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason yielded little.

The 4 p.m. hearing on Shell’s emergency motion, which was filed earlier Wednesday, resulted from the actions of 13 Greenpeace activists who lowered themselves from a bridge over the Willamette River in Portland, Ore., in an attempt to block the Shell-leased ice handling vessel Fennica when it leaves a shipyard upriver to return to Alaska.

On May 8, Gleason issued an order prohibiting Greenpeace USA members from impeding vessels involved in Shell’s offshore Arctic drilling program as part of their protests.

In the Wednesday hearing, Shell attorneys requested Gleason hold Greenpeace in contempt of court for violating the May injunction. Shell is also requesting Gleason issue a cease and desist order against Greenpeace and levy a fine of $2,500 per hour, equal to the lease rate Shell is paying for the Fennica, while Greenpeace is violating the injunction.

Shell’s counsel said the Fennica might have been scheduled to embark today but remained docked at the request of the U.S. Coast Guard and would likely leave Thursday morning.

Gleason said she needed to know exactly when the ship was scheduled to leave the dock to determine if the activists were actually impeding its progress. If Shell can have the information it needs in a court filing by early morning, the hearing will be continued at 9 a.m. Alaska time. Otherwise, it will likely be pushed back to 4 p.m. Thursday.

The Fennica is a 380-foot ice-management vessel that was sent back to Portland for emergency repairs after it hit a shoal while leaving Dutch Harbor for the Chukchi Sea on July 3. The previously uncharted shoal caused a gash in the hull about three feet long and an inch wide.

The Fennica also carries the capping stack, which needs to be onsite while Shell drills to oil-bearing depths in case of a problem. For this reason, Shell can only drill partial wells without the Fennica.

Both of Shell’s drill rigs are now staged in the Chukchi at their respective sites in the Burger prospect.

Greenpeace attorneys requested a grace period if a ruling against the environmental group is issued in order to get word from Alaska to their offices in Boston and on to Portland before a fine is levied.

Gleason first suggested an hour after she issues a ruling, but then said she would be willing to reevaluate that if Greenpeace could suggest a reasonable timeframe.

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

Shell seeks order enforcing injunction against Greenpeace USA

Shell has asked Alaska U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason to enforce a court order she issued May 8 prohibiting Greenpeace USA from efforts to impede Shell-leased vessels.

Shell filed a request Wednesday afternoon, asking for a teleconferenced hearing the same day after a group of 13 Greenpeace activists lowered themselves from a bridge over the Willamette River in Portland in an attempt to block the Shell-leased Fennica when it leaves the shipyard after repairs.

The injunction against Greenpeace USA includes the Fennica, an ice-management vessel undergoing emergency repairs in a Portland shipyard to fix a three-foot long gash in the hull sustained on an uncharted shoal while attempting to depart Dutch Harbor for the Chukchi Sea on July 3.

The Fennica also carries Shell’s capping stack, which is required to be on location when the company is drilling to oil-bearing depths. Shell can only drill “top holes” until the Fennica returns to the Chukchi.

“There’s only one vessel we’re here to block, and that is Shell’s icebreaker Fennica, which has equipment on it that they can’t do any drilling without,” Greenpeace activist Steve Nichols said, and was quoted in a filing made by Shell Wednesday. “The window for drilling in the Arctic is narrow. The longer it takes to get a ship there, the less time they will have to drill.”

Greenpeace has violated the federal court order several times already, including effort to block the semi-submersible drill vessel Polar Pioneer as it departed Puget Sound June 15.

Citing a cost to lease the Fennica of nearly $60,000 per day, Shell asked Gleason to impose a compliance fine of $2,500 per hour until Greenpeace USA removed its activists from the bridge. The company also asked the court to order Greenpeace to cease any further efforts to block the Fennica.

Earlier in the day, according to the filing, Shell emailed and then telephoned Greenpeace USA attorney Matt Pawa at his office and on his cell phone with a request that the environmental organization stand down.

According to the filing, Pawa did not respond to the email or to a voicemail message left on his office phone advising him that the motion was being filed.

SOURCE

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