Last week I blogged on the landmark legal case against Shell by Nigerians that was being heard in the Supreme Court.

That’s not the only court-room Shell was in last week. In an extraordinary preemptive legal strike the oil giant filed suit against more than a dozen environmental organisations that Shell believes might challenge its drilling programme in the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic.

What Shell is trying to do is stop a further legal challenge on its Oil Spill Response Plan from groups like the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, National Audubon Society or Oceana.

While the groups have not announced their intention to go to court to challenge the company’s 450-page oil spill response plan, which was tentatively approved by the Interior Department two weeks ago, the company has every reason to think that they will and so is seeking to stop them.

“This is a very unique legal approach. I’m not sure anything like this has ever been done before,” Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh told the Los Angeles Times.

op de Weegh also argued “We’re confident that the approval of this plan met all legal and regulatory requirements and it’s certainly strong enough to withstand legal review, but we’d just rather start that sooner rather than later.”

But if Shell hoped their legal action would stop further legal challenges they are wrong. Peter Van Tuyn, an attorney for the Alaska Wilderness League, said a legal challenge to the oil spill response plan was “likely”.

Indeed, the New York Times argues that the “legal strategy taken by Shell is rarely successful.” Whit Sheard, a lawyer for Oceana, argues the group reserved the right to challenge the plan in court. He labelled Shell’s novel legal strategy as “frivolous,” adding “I’d suggest it’s either desperate or abusive in terms of the American legal process.”

David M. Uhlmann, who was the head of the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section from 2000 to 2007 and is now a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, adds “it’s not clear they [Shell] have a legal leg to stand on.”

In a related legal action in the US District Court in Anchorage, the oil giant attempted to send a chilling legal warning against Greenpeace, whose members last week boarded one of the drilling rigs now moored in New Zealand.

Shell requested a temporary restraining order prohibiting Greenpeace from engaging in “illegal and dangerous actions” tied to the upcoming offshore drilling program, resulting in a temporary restraining order.

“The judge rejected most of Shell’s heavy-handed lawsuit, but too much still remains”, Greenpeace USA deputy campaign director Dan Howells said in a statement.  “This was one of the broadest attacks on peaceful protest we’ve seen in years”.


  • This is a new legal approach that a giant oil company like shell is taking. True, that we need oil and there are issues on how to get this work but we must also consider our environmental responsibilities. I hope we all can find a compromise on this aspect and make things work out for the benefit of all.

  • To me this is whole hearted arrogance to think that if within a hugh oil company’s 450 page ‘oil spill response plan’ in writing that says that with their oil company has had no experience of drilling in frigid waters of the Artic and they have no intention of cleaning up any of their potential oil spills within this cold water because of the already established glacial geographic area, this would be for me, if I lived there in the Chukchi Sea of the Artic, a very negative feeling that I won’t want Shell within those waters. Especially since there exists a human population that has an economy, that has survived within this area for many years. It is from this food chain made up of the animals in which those Alaskians of the Chukchi Sea feeds which are the habitates from a barrier reef made up of the Alaskian Natives who live off that coast of the Chukchi Sea, who worry and know how the impacts of this oil drilling will affect their whole way of life. There is a reference to this already of a resident of Kivalina, Alaska, who has documented that in Kivalina, which is a largely Inupiat community on a barrier reef island in the northwest of Alaska, says that her island already faces erosion from climate change, and some of the residents are trying to relocate. Since people there live off the wild life from the ocean, if an oil spill takes place, this oil will disrupt the migrations of sea mammals for years, since oil remains in its form for years. In the Houston Chronical Oct 2012, it was documented that in Gulf in Galveston and all along the Southern states from South Carolina, to Texas, the oil spills were found to have been documented with remains of the BP oil spilled still very much alive at the 3300 ft level, with the sea life at that level slowly disappearing. Oil don’t die and go away. Thus, in the event of an oil spill, the people living within the Chukchi Sea’s coastal communities are the ones whose lives and economy that will be impacted directly, and are yet the ones who are least prepared for such a disaster. After a spill, oil companies and governments who issued needed permits will continue with business as usual and the oil companies will recover. They have reserves to fall back on. The people in the areas such as Chukchi Sea’s coastal areas won’t survive, because once they lose their livelihood, lose their main food source, food that sustains subsistence way of life, and their whole economy and way of life, all will be gone forever for these people, and they will have to leave that area in which they have lived for years, forever. Is it really cost worth and opportunity worth for Shell to drill in the Artic, where there is an human economy alive, who lives off the food chain within that area in which would having drilling and possible spills that have been established that none will be cleaned up? When a unpredictable spill occurs, the oil company has other resources although they have already stated in writing to the public and law that they’ve never performed drilling in such cold water as the Artic, that they have no intention to clean up their spills because of the cold water and glaciers which surroung the whole area?
    In the meantime, those humans who have an economy are still dependent on the local environment, which means these Alaskian humans have no alternative food source identified aside from the land animals, which are not nearly enough to supply all of our needs throughout the year. These people who live within the Chukchi Sea’s barrier communities need guaranteed for no accidents because they have no alternative food source identified aside from the land animals, which are not nearly enough to supply all of their needs throughout the year for which Shell has made perfectly clear they have no guarantees that there won’t be any accidents, and if there are, no effort of clean up will be made. Thus, to approve such a situation would be determential to those living, breathing humans who are living within that area. Why should profit be above a people’s potential survival and go against an already well, established economy that has taken care of them for years??



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