We've just heard that a federal judge in Alaska has decided to impose a powerful legal injunction on Greenpeace US which prohibits even legal protests within a certain distance of Shell’s vessels involved in Arctic drilling operations.
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An injunction is a special type of remedy normally reserved for extreme and immediate threats and could mean really severe penalties for anyone caught breaking it. Even more disturbing is that Shell based much of its complaint on the actions of Lucy Lawless, who boarded a drillship with Greenpeace New Zealand. Xena may be a badass, but she and a handful of Greenpeace New Zealand climbers over 6,000 miles away are hardly a reason for the involvement of U.S. courts and this extraordinary ruling.
The injunction will remain in place until October 31st 2012 - the end of Shell Oil’s ‘drilling window’ in Alaska. After this date the ice gets too thick for support vessels or spill response equipment to even get to the scene, let alone do anything about it. That's a pretty terrifying prospect.
Under the injunction Greenpeace USA is banned from going within 1 km of Shell’s two main drilling vessels or 500 meters of the other ships they're planning on taking to the pristine Arctic. Shell wants to hide their drilling program far away from public view, because the reality of industrial drilling in the Arctic is going to be ugly as hell.
But all is not lost. When an oil company with billions of dollars employs an army of lawyers to undermine the right to peaceful protest and free speech, then you know you’re doing something right. Since Greenpeace New Zealand launched this campaign over 300,000 people have written to Shell telling them that Arctic drilling is one of the great mistakes of our age, and the company has resorted to legal bullying because they’re scared of public opinion.
Greenpeace is just one part of a growing movement which will continue to oppose Arctic drilling peacefully and vigorously this year and in the future. This desperate drilling program will do nothing to bring down gas prices in the US, but everything to endanger America’s last true wilderness and play havoc with our climate. It’s time we start protecting the best interests of the 99% instead of a handful of corporate executives pursuing the next billion dollars in profit.
We invite all of you to join us in exposing this corporate bullying for what it is. Help us show the world that melting sea ice should be a warning that we're making a major mistake, not an invitation to keep pumping the oil that is causing the problem in the first place. Now is the time to stand together, against the wealth and power of the fossil fuel elite. Now is the time to make your voice count in the battle to save the Arctic.
Dan Howells is Deputy Campaign Director at Greenpeace USA.