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Protest leaders hail Shell decision to halt Arctic drilling

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - A Portland protester takes to the streets during the actions against Shell Oil here in July. Shell announced Tuesday that the company has halted plans to drill for oil in the Arctic following disappointing discoveries from its 6,800-foot deep Berger J exploration well. The Anglo-Dutch corporation found some oil with its exploratory efforts in the Chukchi Sea, but not enough to continue drilling off the Alaskan coast for the “foreseeable” future.

"Shell continues to see important exploration potential in the basin, and the area is likely to ultimately be of strategic importance to Alaska and the U.S. However, this is a clearly disappointing exploration outcome for this part of the basin,” the company said in a statement published on its website.

Not everyone was so disappointed.

“It’s very exciting,” says Maya Jarrad, communications coordinator for 350PDX, a grassroots Portland group focused on stopping climate change, which helped lead protests against Shell's Arctic-bound icebreaker in July. “These large fossil fuel companies, such as Shell, are finding it financially and politically difficult to expand their fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Shell's efforts to drill in the Arctic prompted "kayaktivists" to block the Willamette River in July when Shell brought its icebreaker to Portland for repairs. Shell's Arctic drilling plans also has been criticized by presidential hopefuls, including Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton, who said that given what we know about the area, “its not worth the risk of drilling.”

Despite protests and critical analysis of the plan, Shell has spent $7 billion in its failed efforts in the region.

The company’s announcement comes days after officials from Portland and Multnomah County voted to bar any future investments in fossil fuels. Still, Jarrad believes that there’s more work to be done. The Climate Action Coalition (of which 350PDX is a member) is now setting its sights on the infrastructure all along the West Coast that facilitates the use of fossil fuels.

“Portland is one of the important sites of fossil fuel transport from the western United States to mostly Asian markets, but if these fuels are burned anywhere in the world, we’ll exceed the amount of carbon that will allow human life to continue on this planet,” Jarrad says.

Mayors from all over the West Coast will meet in Portland this November to discuss fossil fuels, according to Daphne Wysham, Director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Center for Sustainable Economy in Lake Oswego.

“We are calling for no new fossil fuel infrastructure on the entire West Coast,” she says. “And that will be front and center on our agenda, along with a call for investment in the clean sustainable infrastructure that we desperately need, including public transit, and facilities for electric cars.”

Contact Kevin Trevellyan at ktrevellyan@portlandtribune.com.


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