AJOC EDITORIAL: Greenpeace has earned a contempt citation
With Greenpeace USA engaged in yet another attempt to thwart Shell’s Arctic exploration efforts, it is time for a federal judge to hold it accountable for continued and brazen violations of the injunction she issued May 8 ordering the group to stay away from the company’s vessels.
On July 29, a group of 13 activists dangled themselves from a bridge in Portland, Ore., in a declared attempt to stop the 380-foot ice handling vessel Fennica from leaving port after repairs are complete on the hull damage suffered on an uncharted shoal while leaving Dutch Harbor July 3.
Speaking for the group was none other than Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard.
This follows Greenpeace USA leading a kayak blockade against the Polar Pioneer drilling platform as tugs were attempting to pull it out of Puget Sound on June 15 in which more than a dozen were arrested for violating Coast Guard safety zones around the vessels.
A couple days later off the coast of Vancouver Island, the Greenpeace USA vessel Esperanza intercepted the Polar Pioneer in transit, repeatedly dropping a banner supported by bouys in front of the rig and even tossing swimmers into its path.
The Esperanza, you may recall, also facilitated the scaling of the Polar Pioneer by six pirates including one from Greenpeace USA as it crossed the Pacific Ocean during April. They quit the rig April 11, just before the issuance of a temporary restraining order against Greenpeace USA that preceded the full injunction issued May 8.
Reckless, stupid and illegal only begin to describe Greenpeace USA’s actions. The only question now is how long Alaska U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason will continue to allow Greenpeace USA to thumb its collective nose at her injunctive order.
Shell isn’t sitting idly by in the face of Greenpeace USA’s lawlessness. The company has filed a request with Gleason seeking nearly $60,000 in attorneys’ fees from Greenpeace USA based on its expenses responding to not one, not two, not three, but five different motions filed in the Alaska U.S. District Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to have the injunction stayed.
Shell is alleging that Greenpeace USA never had any intention of complying with Gleason’s injunction, and points to the fact that the stay motions were withdrawn at the early dawn hour of 5:46 a.m. Pacific time on June 15. That’s the precise time of day Greenpeace USA was leading the kayak blockade of the Polar Pioneer in Seattle.
Shell is also pointing to the testimony of Greenpeace Arctic Campaigner Mary Sweeters, who stated the following under direct examination from the group’s attorney during the injunction hearing:
Q: “Does Greenpeace USA at this time have any plans to physically block Shell from moving its vessels up to the Arctic?”
A: “To my knowledge, no.”
Q: “Does Greenpeace USA at this time have any plans to block Shell, physically, from doing anything with respect to its Arctic exploration campaign?”
A: “To my knowledge, no.”
The attempt at plausible deniability — “to my knowledge” — is cute, but the dishonesty of Greenpeace USA’s representations to the court is anything but.
It is obvious Greenpeace USA never intended to obey Gleason’s injunction, and once it was clear the group wasn’t going to get a stay it abandoned all pretence of compliance.
The group is also well aware of the risks of civil contempt it is taking. In Sweeters’ declaration to the court seeking relief from the one-kilometer safety zone Gleason ordered, she stated the fear of civil contempt charges should Shell allege it wasn’t keeping a proper distance from its vessels.
Greenpeace USA is protesting Shell’s request for attorneys’ fees, calling the motion a disguised attempt at a contempt order. In response, Shell wrote in a July 20 brief that it has every intention of filing a contempt motion.
The bridge danglers in Portland and the open role of Greenpeace USA in their action, combined with a long list of violations of the injunction preceding it, should be all Gleason needs to hold the group in contempt.