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Shell Offshore, Inc. v. Greenpeace, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Alaska

April 11, 2015

SHELL OFFSHORE, INC., a Delaware corporation, and SHELL GULF OF MEXICO INC., a Delaware corporation, Plaintiffs,
v.
GREENPEACE, INC., a California corporation, and JOHN and JANE DOES 1-20, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND SCHEDULING FURTHER PROCEEDINGS

SHARON L. GLEASON, District Judge.

Before the Court at Docket 8 is Plaintiffs' Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction (Rule 65). This Order addresses the motion for a temporary restraining order. Greenpeace, Inc. ("Greenpeace USA") responded to that motion on April 9, 2015. No reply was filed as the Court considered the motion for the temporary restraining order on shortened time. Oral argument was held on April 10, 2015.

Plaintiffs Shell Offshore, Inc. and Shell Gulf of Mexico, Inc. (collectively "Shell") filed a Verified Complaint on April 7, 2015 that alleges four causes of action: (1) intentional tortious interference with maritime navigation, (2) trespass and trespass to chattels, (3) private nuisance, and (4) civil conspiracy. The Complaint identifies Greenpeace USA and 20 unnamed persons as Defendants.[1] Shell's Complaint also refers to "Greenpeace, " which Shell alleges is comprised of Greenpeace USA along with the individuals and entities affiliated with and acting in concert with it. In setting out the allegations in Shell's Complaint, the Court has strived to duplicate Shell's use of these two terms.

Shell's Complaint alleges as follows: Shell is engaged in final preparations to conduct oil exploration offshore of Alaska on the Outer Continental Shelf during the 2015 open water season (July to October) in the Arctic Ocean. Two vessels controlled by Shell, the Blue Marlin and the Noble Discoverer, are currently in the Pacific Ocean under way from Malaysia bound for Washington State, from where they will proceed to Alaska. The Blue Marlin is a heavy transport vessel presently loaded with the Polar Pioneer, an arctic drilling vessel. After the Noble Discoverer and Polar Pioneer arrive in Alaska, Shell alleges that these vessels will engage in drilling operations supported by at least 28 support vessels and numerous aircraft.[2]

Shell's Complaint alleges that the Greenpeace vessel Esperanza has been following the Polar Pioneer and the Noble Discoverer since they left Malaysia in early March, 2015.[3] Shell alleges that on March 23, 2015, "Greenpeace launched a rigid inflatable boat from the Esperanza and spent two hours circling the Blue Marlin, " conducting activity including "stopping in the path of the Blue Marlin to see if it would change course, positioning itself in the sun's reflection ahead of the Blue Marlin, and proceeding directly at the Blue Marlin before veering away."[4] Shell alleges that Greenpeace developed a website called The Crossing that documents the pursuit and features six activists that Greenpeace represented as preparing to do something "extraordinary."[5] Shell alleges that "[o]n April 6, 2015, six members of the crew of the Esperanza, including Greenpeace USA's representative, member, and employee Aliyah Field... boarded the Blue Marlin on the high seas approximately 750 miles northwest of Hawaii, " and scaled the Polar Pioneer. It appears undisputed that as of the date of oral argument on the motion, April 10, 2015, these individuals remain on the Polar Pioneer. [6]

Shell's Complaint alleges that the

actual and threatened actions of Greenpeace USA and those acting in concert with it are in furtherance of a carefully staged direct action campaign of illegal and extremely unsafe activities directed against Shell for the purpose of unlawfully preventing, or otherwise unlawfully disrupting, delaying, and interfering with, oil and gas exploration drilling in the United States Outer Continental Shelf... of the Chukchi Sea adjacent to Alaska's northwestern coast.[7]

Shell alleges that Greenpeace USA's disruption of those activities would cause Shell irreparable harm and endanger Shell's vessels, facilities, property, and personnel.[8] Shell also references this Court's prior grant of preliminary injunctive relief against Greenpeace USA in 2012, in which Greenpeace USA was ordered not to interfere with a number of Shell vessels and to remain outside of designated safety zones around those vessels within the United States' Exclusive Economic Zone. Shell indicates that it is seeking similar relief here.[9]

Shell's Complaint alleges that Greenpeace USA is headquartered in the District of Columbia, has an office in Juneau, Alaska, and is registered in Alaska as a non-profit corporation. Shell alleges that Greenpeace USA is acting in a concerted action with Greenpeace International and other Greenpeace national offices. And Shell alleges that "Greenpeace USA controls all operations occurring in the United States and that no Greenpeace operations are to occur in the United States without Greenpeace USA's consent."[10]

JURISDICTION

The Court has subject matter jurisdiction to the extent conferred by 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) because the parties are considered to have diversity of citizenship.[11] The Court has subject matter jurisdiction on the high seas to the extent conferred by 28 U.S.C. § 1333 admiralty jurisdiction. And to the extent necessary and applicable, the Court has additional grounds for subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367 (supplemental jurisdiction) and 43 U.S.C. §§ 1333(a)(1) and 1349(b)(1) (grants of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act).[12]

Greenpeace USA does not challenge the Court's personal jurisdiction over it, and has entered a full appearance in this action.[13] Greenpeace USA suggests that injunctive relief by this Court is inappropriate because some of the activists currently aboard the Polar Pioneer may not be within the personal jurisdiction of this Court.[14] The full extent of the Court's jurisdictional authority need not be determined at this juncture, for the Court clearly has the necessary jurisdictional authority to enjoin Greenpeace USA.

DISCUSSION

A party seeking a temporary restraining order must establish that: (1) it is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) it is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; (3) the balance of equities tips in its favor; and (4) a temporary restraining order is in the public interest.[15]

I. Likelihood of Success on the Merits

The Court finds that Shell is likely to succeed on the merits of one or more of its claims against Greenpeace USA. A Greenpeace USA employee and American citizen is one of the six activists currently aboard the Polar Pioneer without authorization, and Greenpeace USA is actively promoting a website supporting the activists' actions.[16] Accordingly, for the purposes of a temporary restraining order, Shell has made a sufficient showing that Greenpeace USA is involved in the activities around and aboard the Polar Pioneer to warrant a finding that Shell will likely succeed on the merits of one or more of its claims of intentional ...


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