BP gets restraining order to keep Greenpeace away from Northstar

Posted: Thursday, August 10, 2000

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- A federal judge has issued a restraining order barring Greenpeace activists from interfering with activities at the Northstar oil field in the Beaufort Sea.

U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland issued the temporary order Wednesday afternoon at the request of lawyers for BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc.

A Greenpeace spokesman said the group would comply.

''We don't have any intention of disobeying that order at all,'' said Dan Ritzman in Anchorage.

The order names Greenpeace and a long list of people aboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, now anchored in Prudhoe Bay, as well as John and Jane Does 1-20 for good measure.

''We sought the order because repeated incidents of the type we saw earlier this week pose a risk to Northstar workers, to the activists involved, and to the police officers who are called out to respond,'' said BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell.

Seven people were arrested Tuesday at Barrow after they boarded a barge carrying equipment to the Northstar field on Monday. That barge left Barrow about 7 p.m. Tuesday, a few hours after the activists were arrested and removed. It arrived at Northstar, 200 miles to the east, on Wednesday afternoon, Chappell said.

The barge protest was not the first for Greenpeace against Northstar. Nine activists were arrested last winter after the group set up a camp on the sea ice near the project.

Time constraints in completing the Northstar work were a consideration in seeking the order, according to BP's Chappell.

''Short delays at critical points on the Northstar project could delay the project,'' he said Wednesday.

The period of open water available to deliver material to the North Slope is limited to about two months, according to the findings of fact and conclusions of law filed with the order. Interfering with transport of materials could constitute a serious hardship, it said.

For now, said Greenpeace's Ritzman, the crew of the Arctic Sunrise group was planning stay at anchor and let everyone get a good night's sleep.

He said Holland's order adds possible penalties far beyond the fines and short jail terms that can be imposed for criminal trespass, the charge lodged against the seven people removed from the barge Tuesday.

''From the way I read and understand it, we have no idea what the penalty for the action would be from the court and the judge,'' Ritzman said.

The restraining order says Greenpeace activists must stay at least 200 yards from the Northstar facilities or any vessels or vehicles involved in field development.

''Defendants may carry on their protests at a distance which does not interfere with plaintiff's property rights or the rights of navigation,'' the order says.

A hearing on the temporary order is set for Friday. The order itself expires in ten days unless the judge extends it. BP is also seeking an injunction to keep the protesters away from the site on a more permanent basis.



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