Shell, Greenpeace headed back to court Thursday
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, Oregon, 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 also requested 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 tomorrow 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 re-evaluate that if Greenpeace could suggest a reasonable timeframe.
Elwood Brehmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.