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Federal Judge Slaps Hourly Fine on Climate Activists Forming 'Last Line of Defense for Fragile Arctic'

After successfully blocking Shell vessel from reaching open waters, activists hit with $2,500 per hour fine

 Over 34 hours later, activists on remain on the St. John's Bridge. (Photo: Greenpeace USA)

Over 34 hours later, activists on remain on the St. John's Bridge. (Photo: Greenpeace USA)

A federal judge on Thursday said that activists with Greenpeace USA who are staging a blockade of an Arctic drilling support vessel are in contempt of a court injunction, and issued the organization a $2,500 hourly fine.

In an effort to prevent Shell from starting its offshore drilling operation in the Alaskan Arctic, thirteen activists with the group suspended from the St. Johns Bridge in Portland, Ore. for over 30 hours starting Wednesday morning, successfully forcing the vessel, the MVS Fennica, to make a dramatic u-turn on Thursday.

Their efforts have been buoyed by a coalition of "kayaktivists" who have repeatedly taken to the water to stage paddling blockades.

But attorneys for the energy giant said that the group staging a direct action at the bridge should be fined because it is violating a court ordered "buffer zone" preventing such actions.

U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason agreed, stating (pdf) in her order: "Greenpeace, Inc. will remain in civil contempt so long as its activists continue to hang from the St. Johns Bridge in Portland, Oregon with the Fennica located upstream of that bridge."

The fine is set to increase daily if the protesters continue the action—on July 31 the sanction becomes $5,000 an hour, on Aug. 1 $7,500 an hour, and on Aug. 2 $10,000 an hour.

Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, hailed the actions of the demonstrators, and called on President Barack Obama to stop Shell's Arctic drilling plans.

"In the struggle for a better world, these thirteen courageous souls are currently the last line of defense for the fragile Arctic," Naidoo said in a statement.

"This morning they turned Shell’s dangerous drilling support vessel around. On behalf of millions of people around the world they are saying sHell no to Arctic oil drilling. It is now time for President Obama to listen to the growing movement in the U.S. and beyond. It is not too late for him to revoke Shell’s lease to drill and to send this ship back to port permanently," he stated.

Twitter users continue to follow the action with the hashtag #ShellNo:

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