Portland OR—26 climbers have formed a blockade off the St. John’s bridge and are prepared to delay Shell’s Arctic icebreaking vessel, the MSV Fennica, as it attempts to leave Portland on the Willamette River.
The climbers have secured themselves in place suspended from the bridge with enough supplies to last for days. According to the latest federal permit, the Fennica must be at Shell’s drill site before Shell can reapply for federal approval to drill into hydrocarbon zones in the Chukchi Sea.
The climbers have displayed individual banners that say “#ShellNo,” “Save the Arctic,” and “President Obama, Last Chance to Say #ShellNo.” The action by Greenpeace climbers is one of several protests, including a 24-hour vigil, in the area since Shell’s drilling support vessel arrived in Portland.
Annie Leonard, the Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, said, “Every second we stop Shell counts. The brave climbers here in Portland are now what stand between Shell and Arctic oil. This is President Obama’s last chance to wake up and realize the disaster that could happen on his watch. There is still time for our President to cancel Shell’s lease to drill in the Arctic, living up to the climate leader we know he can be. Shell has ignored the world’s best scientists, as well as millions of people around the world, who have all said repeatedly that the melting Arctic is a dire warning, not an invitation.”
The Shell-contracted Fennica has been in Portland for repairs to a meter-long gash in its hull after it was damaged off the coast of Dutch Harbor. The Obama administration released a decision last week requiring the Fennica and its capping stack, a critical piece to Shell’s drilling fleet, to be fully repaired and on the drill site before the company can drill deep enough for oil. Shell must also reapply to federal regulators for specific drill permits which is not guaranteed.
“Greenpeace prioritizes safety above all else- rappelling from a bridge is a walk in the park compared to the risks that we’ll face if we continue the climate change trajectory we’re on now,” Leonard said.
Since Shell’s drilling fleet arrived in the Seattle area and then began moving North to the drill site, a broad movement has emerged in the Pacific Northwest and extending to Alaska. In June, activists in kayaks formed a blockade around Shell’s drilling rig the 40,000 ton Polar Pioneer as it left Seattle en route to Alaska.
In May, the Obama administration approved Shell’s plan to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea in the Alaskan Arctic. Since that approval, both Shell’s rigs, the Polar Pioneer and the Noble Discoverer have failed routine inspections.
The Fennica is one of two primary icebreakers in Shell’s drilling fleet, and is equipped with a capping stack, which Shell is federally required to have on site in the Chukchi Sea. Until the MSV Fennica and the capping stack are on site in Alaska and Shell is granted federal drilling permits, the company can only drill top wells, thousands of feet above any projected oil. Shell’s contractors, including Noble Drilling, caused major accidents during its exploratory drilling season in 2012 including the wreck of its rig the Kulluk when it ran aground near Dutch Harbor.
In an environmental analysis, the Obama administration predicts 75 percent chance of a major oil spill if Shell develops its leases in the Chukchi Sea.