Alaska Judge Imposes Sweeping Injunction Against Greenpeace Over Arctic Drilling

A federal judge in Alaska has granted a preliminary injunction against Greenpeace USA which will remain in place until October 31st 2012, the end of Shell Oil’s ‘drilling window’ in Alaska. The injunction follows a temporary restraining order which expired on March 28th.

The injunction was granted despite clear evidence that a ‘direct action’ against one of Shell’s rigs in New Zealand was carried out by an entirely separate legal entity, Greenpeace New Zealand. Greenpeace USA is now banned from entering a 1 km ‘safety zone’ around Shell’s two main drilling vessels.

A 500 meter safety zone (1000 m. during towing) is also in place for support vessels and other equipment.  These safety zones will be reduced to 100 meters for vessels transiting through narrow channels.

The restrictions apply to Shell’s vessels while they are in US territorial waters (up to 12 miles from shore).  The judge is still considering extending this to include the Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) 200 miles offshore.

Reacting to the news, Greenpeace Deputy Campaign Director Dan Howells said:

“When an oil company with billions of dollars employs an army of lawyers to undermine your right to peaceful protest and free speech, then you know you’re doing something right. Since Greenpeace New Zealand launched this campaign over 300,000 people have written to Shell telling them that Arctic drilling is one of the great mistakes of our age, and the company has resorted to legal bullying because they’re scared of public opinion.”

“Greenpeace is just one part of a growing movement which will continue to oppose Arctic drilling peacefully and vigorously this year and in the future. This desperate  drilling program will do nothing to bring down gas prices in the US, but everything to endanger America’s last true wilderness and play havoc with our climate. It’s time we start protecting the best interests of the 99% instead of a handful of corporate executives pursuing the next billion dollars in profit.”

In support of its complaint, Shell referred to an activity over 6,000 miles from Alaska in which activists from Greenpeace New Zealand joined the actor Lucy Lawless to stop a Shell drillship from leaving for the Arctic.

The injunction ‘enjoins’, or bans, Greenpeace or anyone acting ‘in concert’ from a number of activities. Breaching the order could result in fines and jail time on top of the possible penalties that already exist for these offenses.

These activities include:

  • Breaking into or trespassing on the vessels
  • Tortiously or illegally interfering with the operation, movement or progress of the vessels
  • Barricading, blocking or preventing access to or egress from the vessels
  • Tortiously or illegally endangering or threatening any employee, contractor or visitor of Shell or any of its affiliates who is present on, or as they enter or exit the vessels. 

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