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Greenpeace wants Shell’s lawsuit over protest dismissed

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Attorneys for Greenpeace Inc. say Royal Dutch Shell PLC has demonstrated no harm from environmental protesters who boarded a ship carrying a drill rig last month.

In a written motion, Greenpeace asked U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason to reject Shell’s request for court-ordered, expanded safety zones around its Arctic drill fleet.

Shell’s lawsuit is seeking 1,000-meter safety zones around most of its fleet and 1,500 meters around drill vessels. The oil company says the expanded zones would keep crews and protesters safe.

But expanded safety zones — larger than the Coast Guard’s maximum 500 meters — would prevent Greenpeace from informing Americans about environmental problems, attorney Michael Moberly wrote.

“Shell’s goal is no secret: above all it wants this Court to stop such protests — even ones that are entirely legal and peaceful — from occurring near its hired vessels and property, so that the American people cannot see another iconic image of Greenpeace USA right next to ships that Shell plans to use to drill for oil in a fragile wilderness,” Moberly wrote.

Shell Offshore Inc. sued on April 7, one day after six Greenpeace protesters boarded the Blue Marlin, a heavy-lift ship carrying a Transocean Ltd. semi-submersible drilling unit, the Polar Pioneer, as it crossed the Pacific. Shell plans to use the Polar Pioneer this summer to drill an exploratory well in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast. The protesters departed after six days.

If the judge creates safety zones through an injunction, Shell could seek contempt of court citations against Greenpeace protesters who trespass.

Conservation groups oppose Arctic offshore exploratory drilling, saying oil companies have not demonstrated that they can clean up a major spill in harsh conditions far from deep-water ports, major airports and other resources that could be of use in a spill.

At a hearing last week before Gleason, Shell officials said protesters had trespassed, putting themselves and crew members in danger on the high seas 750 miles northwest of Hawaii. The trespass, they said, will cost the company time and money for inspections of the drill rig to determine if damage or tampering occurred.

But Moberly said Shell’s broad request is based on a single “alleged trespass” and a series of “creatively strung-together quotations from websites” that are mostly about acts by Greenpeace entities that are not part of the lawsuit and that occurred years ago. Greenpeace Inc. said it should not be blamed for actions by Greenpeace International, the organization’s attorneys said.

Shell attorney Jeffrey Leppo last week called that part of Greenpeace’s “whack-a-mole jurisdictional policy” to dodge consequences by blaming another part of its network. A Greenpeace USA campaigner was among the six who boarded the Blue Marlin, Leppo noted, and Greenpeace USA publicized the boarding in announcements before and after.

Greenpeace said the Coast Guard should retain jurisdiction of safety organizations. Last month, the agency created temporary safety zones for Shell’s 28-vessel fleet while in Washington state’s Puget Sound, Moberly wrote. Other vessels must stay 500 yards away while Shell vessels are in transit and 100 yards away when they’re moored or anchored. The Coast Guard has also accepted Shell’s request for 500-meter safety zones in the Chukchi Sea, Moberly said.

Gleason has not said when she will respond to Shell’s injunction request.

Shell hopes to use the Port of Seattle to stage its Arctic drilling fleet. Activists in kayaks are planning to protest Shell operations.

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