Shell, Greenpeace negotiate calm end to protest
By Richard Warnica
The 30-hour protest wound down in the hours after the morning summit. By mid-afternoon, the chains were off and the two sides were talking. By about 4 p. m., the group, a mix of activists from Canada, the U. S. and France, had agreed to leave.
Jessica Wilson, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace, said the protest ended amicably. No one was arrested, although the RCMP did record the names of each activist.
Paul Hagel, a spokesman for Shell, said the company agreed not to pursue charges, a move he doesn't think will encourage more protests.
"We feel strongly that we want to get these reasonable critics to the table and explain our views," he said.
"We acknowledge the impact of climate change. So we come on an even foot with Greenpeace. And we thought that would be enough to sit down and listen to their views and have them listen to our views."
The group of more than 20 activists entered the remote site north of Fort McMurray on Tuesday morning, chained themselves to three pieces of equipment and unfurled a banner that read: Tar sands: Climate Crime. Five of the protesters left the site Wednesday night.
The protest came a day after Greenpeace released a report calling oilsands development a climate catastrophe and was one of a series of actions that targeted the Washington meeting.
The United States is by far the largest consumer of Canadian oil. Since Obama's election last fall, oilsands opponents have increasingly targeted that market, urging politicians to shut the door to what they call Alberta's "dirty oil."
News of the Muskeg River protest made it into global coverage of the Harper/Obama summit.
Paul Joosse, a University of Alberta sociologist, said that kind of coverage may have been the goal of the Greenpeace protest.
"The interesting thing about this story is the strategy of communication Greenpeace uses," he said in an e-mail.
"First, they release their new report, then they conduct their action at the Shell site to draw attention to (it) ahead of Harper's meetings in Washington. The measure of success for the protest is therefore whether or not they are able to penetrate these high-level discussions."
The protest also raised questions about security in the oilsands, with one expert saying earlier the infiltration revealed serious vulnerabilities in the industry-run system. Shell's Hagel said the company will conduct a full security review of their site.
"This is the most serious piece of the puzzle here," he said. "We need to make sure the investigation looks at all different aspects of the site and how security procedures fell to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Shell shuttered the Muskeg River mine, which is part of their Albian Oilsands operation, for about six hours on Tuesday.
Production at the 155,000 barrel-a-day site was restarted at about 2 p. m. It was operating at full capacity a few hours later.
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton JournalPosted by Arthur Caldicott on 17 Sep 2009