Hundreds of Protesters Block Access to Shell's Oil-drilling Rig at Seattle Port
May 22, 2015 Al Jazeera America & Darren Ankrom / Vice.com
Hundreds of protesters gathered at the Port of Seattle on Monday to block oil workers' access to a Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig temporarily docked there on its journey to the Arctic, where it will be used to resume exploration for oil and gas reserves. Holding signs reading "Shell no" and "Seattle loves the Arctic," protesters assembled early in the morning to prevent workers from reaching the rig, one of two that Shell plans on sending to the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast this summer.
Protesters Block Access to Shell's Oil-drilling Rig at Seattle Port
Environmentalists Aim to Halt Shell's
Oil and Gas Exploration in Arctic Waters Al Jazeera America
(May 18, 2015) -- Hundreds of protesters gathered at the Port of Seattle on Monday to block oil workers' access to a Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig temporarily docked there on its journey to the Arctic, where it will be used to resume exploration for oil and gas reserves.
Holding signs reading "Shell no" and "Seattle loves the Arctic," protesters assembled early in the morning to prevent workers from reaching the rig, one of two that Shell plans on sending to the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast this summer.
On Monday evening, the city issued a violation notice, saying use of Terminal 5 by a massive floating drill rig was in violation of the site's permitted use as a cargo terminal. The 400-foot Polar Pioneer and its support tug Aiviq must be removed from the terminal or Shell's host, Foss Maritime, must obtain an appropriate permit, the Seattle Department of Planning and Development said.
The companies can appeal. Possible fines start at $150 per day and can rise to $500 per day. The notice said the violation must be corrected by June 4.
"It remains our view that the terms agreed upon by Shell, Foss and the Port of Seattle for use of Terminal 5 are valid, and it's our intention to continue loading-out our drilling rigs in preparation for exploratory drilling offshore Alaska," Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said.
"Terminal 5 is permitted to tie up ships while they are being loaded and unloaded," Foss Maritime spokesman Paul Queary said. "That is exactly what Foss is doing there."
Queary noted that both Foss and the Port of Seattle are appealing an earlier determination by the city that the use of Terminal 5 was not permitted. Monday's violation notice followed that determination.
Environmental groups opposed to drilling in the Arctic have organized a series of protests against Shell's plans, saying drilling in the frigid region, where weather changes rapidly, could lead to a catastrophic spill that would be impossible to clean.
They also say drilling would threaten the Arctic's vast layer of sea ice, which helps regulate global temperature and has been disappearing as a result of global warming.
"We're going to put a message out to the planet that we need to take care of ourselves," protester Les Berenson told Al Jazeera.
Nevertheless, officials in Alaska have touted the economic benefits that drilling could bring there and to the Pacific Northwest.
Council, was among the protesters on Monday. She told local KIRO radio that her participation was "in solidarity with the environmental community."
"Any drilling of oil in the Arctic represents grave danger to all humanity," she said.
The protesters, estimated at nearly 200, marched across a bridge to Terminal 5, where oil workers were conducting some work, and temporarily shut down a road leading to the port.
Organizers said those involved in Monday's protest aim to halt work on the rig. It's the just the latest action carried out in Seattle against Shell. On Thursday hundreds of people in kayaks greeted the company's 400-foot rig with a protest on the water. They did the same on Saturday, dubbing the event the Paddle in Seattle.
"In regards to today's protest, the activities of the day were anticipated and did not stop crews from accomplishing meaningful work in preparation for exploration offshore Alaska this summer," Shell's Smith said in a statement.
Police say arrests are possible, but demonstrations have so far remained festive and peaceful. A few dozen officers followed the march on foot and bicycle and kept watch at the terminal.
Protesters of all ages sang, rapped and danced at Terminal 5's vehicle gate on Monday afternoon. They chanted and held signs reading "Climate justice for all" and "You Shell not pass."
Lisa Marcus, 58, a musician who participated in Saturday's protest, turned up with a "Love the planet" sign for another day of activism Monday.
"We've got to wake up" to the dangers of human-caused climate change, she said, ticking off a list of environmental problems that the world is facing. "Shell is trying to make it worse, and that's not acceptable."
Al Jazeera and wire services. Allen Schauffler contributed to this report from Seattle.
(May 16, 2015) -- The Obama administration gave approval May 12 for Shell to resume oil drilling off the Alaskan coast this summer. The announcement came three years after Shell left the Arctic due to safety and operational problems, including the grounding of the Kulluk oil rig. Shell Game in the Arctic Real Risks of Drilling Shell's Arctic Drilling Is Far More Risky Than the Company Is Telling Shareholders, Say Conservationists Darren Ankrom / Vice.com
(May 1, 2015) -- The Deepwater Horizon disaster, which occurred just over five years ago, killed 11 workers and sent oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico for several months. It was the worst spill in US history and has remained a warning of the risks of offshore drilling.
A new petition filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission accuses Royal Dutch Shell of misleading investors about the risks of drilling in the Arctic Ocean and alleges the company is unprepared to handle a major oil spill.
In the filing, which calls on the commission to launch an investigation, Andrew Sharpless, CEO of the conservation group Oceana, and Mark Templeton, director of the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago, warn that Shell's Arctic drilling poses dire risks for the precarious region.
"A spill [like Deepwater Horizon] in the Arctic Ocean could devastate sensitive ocean ecosystems and communities that depend on them and would likely result in costs to Shell of at least tens of billions of dollars," they write. "Response and cleanup would be hindered -- or even be made impossible -- by ice, weather, darkness, and the lack of infrastructure in the remote and dangerous Arctic."
Sometimes a summer Coast Guard outpost operates in Barrow, 70 miles away from where Shell will be conducting exploratory drilling, but otherwise the nearest Coast Guard presence is nearly 950 miles away in Kodiak, Alaska. And the harsh sea and weather conditions, even in the summer months, make any task done at sea extraordinarily challenging.
In December 2012 the Shell rig Kulluk, complete with 150,000 gallons of fuel and drilling fluid, ran aground off the coast of Kodiak during a vicious winter storm -- the capper on a year of setbacks to the company's Arctic operations.
Two years later, Noble Drilling, the contractor that operated Shell's drill ships in the region, was found guilty of eight felony environmental and maritime safety violations committed during the 2012 drilling season and sentenced to pay more than $12 million in fines.
Shell's annual reports "provide only boilerplate generalities" about how expensive a cleanup would be, how the company would pay for it, or the techniques they'd use in tricky Arctic conditions, the filling alleges.
Shell spokesman Curtis Smith told VICE News he disagreed with the petitioners' claims.
"We remain satisfied with our [filling] as it complies with all SEC legal requirements," he said, adding that "a very unlikely spill in the Arctic would not be financially material to the company given the precautions we have taken to prevent and respond to a worst case scenario."
The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world due to manmade climate change, which has caused sea ice to melt. In the mid-2000s Shell spent billions purchasing leases offshore of Alaska, and billions more since seeking to drill exploration wells. ConocoPhillips, Statoil, and others have also made heavy investments in the newly slushier, more industry-friendly region.
A Department of Interior analysis of the Arctic's remote Chukchi Sea -- where Shell plans to spend $1 billion in 2015 improving drilling efforts -- found a 75 percent chance of a major oil spill in the Arctic in the next 77 years if already-granted leases are fully developed and fossil fuel companies extract all they're planning to drill from below the Arctic Ocean.
In addition to the risks posed by a spill, the petition also alleges Shell hasn't disclosed the swarm of pending lawsuits by Alaska's indigenous communities, local governments, and conservation organizations -- litigation that "threatens its entire Arctic program," Sharpless and Templeton write.
In late April, the United States assumed the chair of the Arctic Council, which brings together the eight nations with Arctic territory, as well as several observer nations like China and India. Templeton and Sharpless called this an opportunity to "foster fully informed debate about whether and under what conditions resource extraction could occur," and that "fair disclosure of material risks can and should be an important part of that process."
Secretary of State John Kerry has made climate change a high priority for his two-year term leading the Council, saying earlier this month that "there's only 'one Arctic' and all of us -- the United States, other nations, indigenous peoples, and Arctic communities -- must join together to ensure responsible stewardship of this incredible region."
While Oceana Attorney Mike Levine has said the groups followed requirements and provided sufficient information to justify an SEC investigation, the SEC isn't required to conduct one.
The SEC hasn't publicly responded to the petition.
In January, Shell announced plans to return to the Arctic this summer for the first time since it's disastrous 2012 campaign, using the very same contractor, Noble Drilling. Shell's expanded Arctic drilling, according to Greenpeace's Travis Nichols, is a planetary catch-22.
"The problem is that if they go up and spill, it's a disaster locally. If they go up and don't spill, and succeed, then it's a disaster globally," Nichols told VICE News. "Arctic oil is one of the fossil fuel projects that can't go forward if we're going to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. It's an extreme fossil fuel project in every way. They're going to the ends of the earth — literally — to find the last drops of fossil fuel they can."
Follow Darren Ankrom on Twitter: @darrenankrom
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