Since the Obama Administration approved Shell's exploration plan for the Chukchi Sea off Alaska, in May 2015, protests against the Dutch company and the US government haven't stopped. As reported by Greenpeace, "Shell received government permission to drill in the Arctic this summer despite its history of failures and safety violations, the Obama Administration's own study showing that there's a 75 percent chance of a major Arctic spill within this century if we drill in the Chukchi Sea, and the devastating consequences Arctic drilling would have on our climate. It's outrageous. But this bleak news is fueling something powerful. While governments refuse to rein in big oil companies, ordinary people are stepping up. And a movement is growing between communities and across borders."
To stop the operations, Greenpeace has launched an ashtag, #ShellNO, and an online petition to "ask President Obama and the Department of the Interior to show climate leadership and rescind Shell's Arctic drilling lease" . In the meanwhile, several activists have been trying to block the departure of Shell's first oil rig from the Port of Seattle, by forming a human blockade on board of their kayaks between the rig and the Arctic. An official press release by Greenpeace has reported this morning that 13 kayaktivists were taken into custody as Shell's Polar Pioneer leaves Seattle.
Here is the press release: SEATTLE, WA, June 15, 2015— Thirteen activists in kayaks were taken into custody by the US Coast Guard while blocking Shell's Arctic drilling rig the Polar Pioneer as it attempted to leave Seattle's Puget Sound. Around 50 other protesters on the water were not arrested. The Polar Pioneer has now left the bay, but is stationary. Kayaktivists from other groups are continuing to try to block its passage.
"Shell was trying to get the Polar Pioneer out of Seattle under cover of darkness, but the kayaktivists prevented them from leaving for several hours and exposed what they were doing to the world," said Arctic Communications Manager Travis Nichols.
Shell plans to use the Polar Pioneer to drill for oil in the Alaskan Arctic in less than two weeks.
Annie Leonard, the Executive Director of Greenpeace US, said,"Shell wants to haul its 40,000 ton Arctic destroyer to Alaska as soon as possible, but these courageous individuals are saying, 'Shell No.' Every minute that brave protesters can delay Shell's Arctic drilling plans is another chance for President Obama to reconsider his disastrous approval of oil drilling in Alaska. The President's decision on Arctic drilling will be a dealbreaker for his climate legacy, but it's not too late for him to stop this catastrophe before it starts."
In April, six activists intercepted the same oil rig in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 750 miles north-west of Hawaii and scaled the 40,000 ton platform, occupying the rig for nearly a week. Since then, there has been a broad movement in Seattle and beyond to stop Shell's rigs from leaving for the Arctic, including a protest of several thousand people, 500 on kayaks.
Paloma Henriques, one of the kayaktivists in the blockade, said: "I'm just one voice out here, but I know I'm not alone. I believe that confronting Shell will encourage more people to take a strong stand against them and other companies who are seeking to destroy this planet for profit. We are here to send a message to President Obama that it's not too late to stop Shell from destroying the Arctic."
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 Noble Discoverer is one of the oldest drill ships in the world. In December 2014, Noble Drilling, one of Shell's biggest Arctic sub-contractors and owner of the Noble Discoverer, pleaded guilty to eight felonies related to Shell's failed attempts to drill in the Arctic Ocean in 2012.
"We are grateful and stand with the protesters in Seattle who are determined to stop Arctic Drilling before it starts. Shell's Arctic venture is seriously reckless. This company has no capability to address an oil spill in unpredictable ice conditions and has proven in previous attempts that they are not equipped for the harsh and volatile conditions of the Chukchi Sea," said Faith Gemmill, Executive Director of Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands.
"The future of the Inupiat way of life is on the table, how can this company be so callous with their decisions? Not only is Shell's plans risky, but also detrimental to all Alaska Natives that share the burden of current climate chaos," Gemmill said. "We stand with those that want to protect their Inupiat ancestral way of life, and we will continue to support them facing down this giant, we call on all those of conscience to raise their voice in opposition to this insane venture now"
In an environmental analysis, the Obama administration predicts a 75 percent chance of a major oil spill if all of the Chukchi Sea's oil is produced.
In the meanwhile the debate on Arctic resorces in the US continues.On June 16-17, for instance, a conference, "The Promise of the Arctic: Managing Opportunity Responsibly", will take place exactly in Seattle and it will be attended by stakeholders in Arctic business. Here follows the conference's description: "The evolving Arctic presents substantial economic opportunities for the West Coast maritime industry. To maximize those opportunities, industry must proceed responsibly to ensure that economic opportunities are balanced with environmentally sustainable business practices. In our 2nd Promise of the Arctic Conference, we'll examine environmental best practices being developed to protect the pristine waters of the Arctic, respond to the economic and cultural needs of the native populations, and enhance economic opportunities for stakeholders in Alaska and the lower mainland. We'll look at the legislative and regulatory climate governing this season's economic activities in the Arctic, and we'll hear from those involved in current projects with an eye toward maritime operations. We'll also discuss how best to ensure that the communities in which we operate understand the responsible best practices that have made the West Coast maritime industry among the safest, best managed in the world. If you are involved in maritime transportation, construction or resource extraction, the Promise of the Arctic has been developed to help you maximize the economic potential of the far north.
Browse the agenda or call our offices to learn more about the Promise of the Arctic.