By Shelby Sebens
PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) – Five Greenpeace protesters who dangled from a Portland, Oregon, bridge for two days in a bid to block a Royal Dutch Shell ship headed to the Arctic to drill for oil are each facing $5,000 fines from the U.S. Coast Guard, authorities said on Thursday.Three of the protesters dangled from the 200-foot-high St. John’s bridge in Portland last month while two were on the bridge offering support, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer First Class George Degener said. Each was cited for interfering with the safe operation of a vessel.
Degener said he did not have the names of those charged. The case will go to a Coast Guard hearing in Virginia where the protesters can pay their fines or present their cases, he said.
Thirteen Greenpeace protesters dangled from the St. John’s bridge for more than 40 hours last month trying to keep the ship, the Fennica, from leaving the city. The five who were cited refused orders from law enforcement to come down from the bridge.
Shell aims to return to the Arctic for the first time since 2012, when it experienced a series of mishaps including the grounding of an oil rig.
The company cannot start drilling without the Fennica, which is carrying emergency equipment that would cap any blown-out well. The drilling season ends in October, when sea ice forms.
Greenpeace says Arctic drilling could be damaging to populations of whales, polar bears and walrus in the event of an oil spill.
Greenpeace officials said Thursday morning they had not been officially notified of the charges.
Greenpeace media officer Cassady Sharp said the organization also received court-ordered fines of $2,500 an hour from when an Alaskan judge ordered them in contempt during the July 30 protest to when the climbers came down. Sharp said it is unclear how many hours the court will charge. (Reporting by Shelby Sebens in Portland, Ore.; Editing by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Leslie Adler)
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