Six Greenpeace activists have boarded the Shell Polar Pioneer drilling rig on its way to Seattle. The group is currently camping out on a small catwalk as they try to raise awareness of Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic.
According to NASA research, the amount of ice in the Arctic is declining by roughly 13 percent per decade because of the effects of climate change. The reductions in ice sheets puts a number of animal species in danger and will raise ocean levels, but it also creates an opportunity to drill for more oil in hard-to-reach areas, and the government is onboard.
Last week, the Obama administration agreed to lift suspensions on leases to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea near Northern Alaska, a move that outraged Greenpeace according to CNN. One company that will benefit heavily from the government’s decision is Shell, but first they’ll have to get six Greenpeace activists off of one of their rigs.
The six activists boarded the rig on Monday about 750 miles northwest of Hawaii, using ropes and harnesses, and tweeting as they went.
— Andreas Widlund (@WidlundAndreas) April 6, 2015
Another activist, an American named Aliyah Field wrote, “We made it! We’re on Shell’s platform. And we’re not alone. Everyone can help turn this into a platform for people power!”
The rig, the Polar Pioneer, is hitching a ride on the heavy-lift vessel called the Blue Marlin to Seattle, where Shell workers will prepare it for drilling in the Chukchi Sea come summer time.
According to the Seattle Times, Shell claims the activists are risking the safety of themselves and the crew of the Blue Marlin and responded in a written statement.
“Shell has met with organizations and individuals who oppose energy exploration offshore (of) Alaska. We respect their views and value the dialogue. We will not, however, condone, the illegal tactics employed by Greenpeace. Nor will we allow those stunts to distract from preparations under way to execute a safe and responsible exploration program.”
Nevertheless, the Shell Oil company and its industry competitors have been under criticism for years because of their inability to”contemplate low-carbon future” according to the Guardian.
John Ashton, the UK’s former top climate diplomat, called Shell a “narcissist, paranoiac, and psychopath,” for trying to obstruct action on climate change.
Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden explained in a February speech the need for balance.
“The issue is how to balance one moral obligation, energy access for all, against the other, fighting climate change. We still need fossil fuels for a lower-carbon, higher-energy future.”
For the oil company, a part of that future is arctic drilling, but it had a rocky start.
In 2012, a drilling rig called the Kulluk went ashore on the Kodiak Island in South Central Alaska after towing lines snapped in a return trip. The contractor in charge of the tow pleaded guilty on eight felony charges and was fined $12.2 million. The incident shut down Shell’s Arctic operations for two years.
The six Greenpeace activists on the rig are Shell’s latest challenge, but it remains unclear if they’ll get the media attention they’re after.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]