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Shell sues Greenpeace, aiming to stop Arctic drilling protests

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch
U.S. Coast Guard photo

The Associated Press (via CBS News) reports that an Amsterdam court on Friday heard arguments in a lawsuit Royal Dutch Shell PLC filed against Greenpeace International, seeking a restraining order similar to the one a U.S. court granted it earlier this year.

Shell is suing Greenpeace in an effort to stop the organization from holding anti-Arctic drilling demonstrations within 500 meters of any Shell property. Shell seeks a fine of $1.3 million for any violation of a restraining order, if one is put in place.

Greenpeace and its allies have monitored and protested Shell's activities in the Arctic for more than a year. Earlier this year, actress Lucy Lawless, of "Xena" fame, was arrested after she boarded an Arctic-bound oil drilling rig in New Zealand. More recently, the activist group has churned out myriad stunts, including occupying a Finnish icebreaker, shadowing Shell vessels on its Arctic journey, starting a celebrity-fueled Save the Arctic campaign, and creating the hoax ad campaign called "Arctic Ready." In early September, some protesters, dressed in polar bear outfits, were arrested after a public protest at Russian oil giant Gazprom's Moscow headquarters.

CBS News reports that Shell says it is attempting to protect its $4.5 billion Arctic oil investment, which includes offshore drilling in Alaska's Chukchi and Beaufort seas, from the sometimes extreme protest actions of Greenpeace. Shell has asked that the no-protest buffer zone last for six months.

Both Shell and Greenpeace have headquarters in the Netherlands -- Shell in The Hague and Greenpeace in Amsterdam. The suit was heard in Amsterdam's District Court on Friday; a verdict is not expected until October.

In a statement, Shell's lawyers said that international law on freedom of speech and assembly "do not grant Greenpeace unlimited powers to carry out protest that violate the rights of other parties."

Greenpeace responded by calling the lawsuit a "legal sledgehammer to stifle public discourse."

Shell has scaled back its exploration plans in the Arctic this year, saying that it will drill fewer wells than originally planned and only drill "top-hole" wells that stop short of any petroleum-bearing rock strata.

Read more about the new lawsuit from the AP, here, and read more from Alaska Dispatch about what Shell's drilling program may mean for Alaska.