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#ShellNo Protestors Block Drilling Ship from Leaving Portland Harbor

posted: 07/30/15
by: Danny Clemens
#ShellNo protest
Tim Aubry/Greenpeace USA

After dangling perilously for 30 hours over Portland's Willamette River, protestors claimed a preliminary victory Thursday afternoon after thwarting a Shell Arctic drilling support vessel's first attempt to leave Portland.

Facilitated by Greenpeace, the blockade protests a controversial May decision by the Obama administration that allowed Shell to begin exploratory oil drilling in the Arctic. The thwarted icebreaker, MSV Fennica, is carrying a critical piece of equipment without which Shell legally cannot commence drilling for oil.

"The activists went to sleep last night prepared for this moment, and they were in incredible spirits hearing the support from local Portlanders below and from people around the world," Greenpeace media officer Cassady Sharp said in a statement.

"The one person they really hope is listening is President Obama. There has never been a better time for our President to do the right thing and cancel Shell's lease to drill in the Arctic," she added.

Greenpeace formed the physical blockade Wednesday morning, when more than a dozen demonstrators rappelled from the St. John's Bridge, blocking the harbor's only exit large enough for a ship of the Fennica's size.

They were joined by a large contingent of activists in kayaks, who defied Coast Guard orders to make way for the icebreaker. The demonstrators reportedly have enough food and supplies to last for several days.

Department of the Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Abigail Ross Hopper told the Washington Post that "any offshore exploratory activities will continue to be subject to rigorous safety standards".

Despite Hopper's pledge, a February report from her department found a "75% chance of one or more large spills occurring" over the next 77 years should drilling commence.

In addition to the alarmingly high likelihood of a spill, opponents of drilling cite the region's fragile ecosystems and harsh weather conditions, which could hinder cleanup efforts should a spill occur.

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