BP’s rig operator, Transocean, will today ask Scottish courts to jail Greenpeace’s boss and punish the campaigning group with huge fines.
The offshore drilling contractor is taking legal action against Greenpeace UK after activists blocked a BP rig from drilling new oil wells in the North Sea for 12 days in June last year. Transocean secured an interim interdict, with BP’s consent, which Greenpeace is accused of breaching by continuing its protest.
John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace UK, faces up to two years in prison and Greenpeace faces unlimited fines if found to be in contempt of court.
Mr Sauven said: “Six months after our rig action ended, and after getting a permanent interdict against Greenpeace, BP’s rig operator Transocean is desperately doing everything it can to scare us off.
“But we will not be silenced. We will stand up proudly in court to defend our peaceful protest.
“Stopping BP’s rig was our moral duty when faced with oil giants fuelling the climate emergency, threatening the safety of our planet and putting lives at risk.”
Greenpeace will argue in Edinburgh’s Court of Session, before judge Lady Wolffe, that its actions to disrupt the BP rig were necessary in order to prevent BP from worsening our climate emergency by drilling wells to extract 30 million barrels of oil.
The world’s scientists have made clear that humanity cannot burn all the oil and gas already discovered, so any new development of oil and gas fields would be disastrous for our climate.
In a separate legal case, Greenpeace has been granted permission to judicially review BP’s drilling permit for the Vorlich oil field east of Aberdeen.
Greenpeace argues that the permit is unlawful because there was no proper public consultation. The permit was never officially published by the government, which meant BP’s permit could not be challenged by the public.
BP’s new chief executive Bernard Looney has attempted to reassure campaigners that BP has turned over a new leaf on climate. However there is no change in BP’s current plans to spend $71bn on new oil and gas development this decade.
Today’s hearing is seen by Greenpeace as Big Oil’s latest attempt to stifle climate campaigners through legal action. In December Shell secured a ban on Greenpeace International targeting its North Sea oil rigs in the Brent field.
Shell’s lawyers are Pinsent Masons, the same law firm which is representing Transocean in today’s case.
Marianne Brooker is The Ecologist's content editor. This article is based on a press release from Greenpeace.
Image: Greenpeace campaigner Sarah North holds a banner reading "Climate Emergency" whilst floating in front of BP oil rig on day 11 of the protest in the North Sea.