Pacific Ocean activists left an oil rig after six days of protesting on the structure. The protests were focused on Arctic drilling.
Six members of Greenpeace climbed on an oil rig leased by Royal Dutch Shell. The rig was being taken to the Arctic by a heavy-lift vessel, at the time of the protest. The activists were forced to leave the rig, not by enforcement, but because of bad weather. High swells began to move the vessel, and the worsening of the weather made their actions unsafe. The six went back to the Esperanza, a Greenpeace ship, using inflatable boats.
The protests left Shell concerned and unhappy with officials, stating the actions of the protestors jeopardized everyone’s safety on board the vessel. Company officials put in a federal complaint against the activists. A judge agreed with the complaint, and a restraining order was issued against the group, preventing them from trying such a stunt again.
Activists who boarded the rig in the Pacific Ocean, said they did not interfere with the transport and had carried on supplies in preparation of staying for an extended period of time. Protestors were on the Polar Pioneer platform for almost a week in the Pacific before they left. They boarded the rig around 750 miles northwest of Hawaii and planned to stay on it until the vessel and rig reached Seattle, Washington. Part of their plan was to hoist a giant flag which included names of those opposed to drilling above the Arctic Circle.
The activists were from several countries including the United States, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, Austria and Australia. Greenpeace USA Executive Director, Annie Leonard, said companies like Shell should be accountable for actions that hurt the environment and the economy. Shell was criticized after a rig ran aground in 2012, leading to the company paying fines for polluting the area.
Shell officials responded to the protest by stating there should be an open conversation about exploring the Arctic, with all the challenges and benefits detailed. They are adamant that Pacific Ocean activists will not protest for days, climb or leave a structure again as the protestors did on this rig.
Shell still plans to go ahead with the drilling, and the vessel and rig continues to make its way to its final destination in the Arctic. The project comes amid discussions from United States officials. Last week, the White House confirmed Shell’s rights in the 2008 lease, allowing the drilling. The company’s plan is expected to gain approval from the Department of the Interior by the end of the month.
Drilling in the Arctic has been in heated debate since the late 1970s. The issue first came up because of the energy crisis of that decade. It has cropped up again because of America wanting to lessen dependence on foreign oil, and because warming temperatures in the Pacific Ocean has led to melting ice. That makes drilling more feasible and opens up new areas never before available to drill.
President Barack Obama said he was making climate change a major issue in his administration, but supporters of the president said he went ahead and approved Shell’s agreement in order to balance new tougher regulations on high carbon industries with the need for an energy boost in the United States. The six-day protest by Pacific activists did not bring a response from the president.
By Melody Dareing
Photo by David F. Barrero – Flickr license