The Civil Liberties Defense Center represented four ShellNo protesters who were charged with civil penalty violations before U.S. Coast Guard Hearing Officers in military tribunals instead of civilian courts. We are happy to report good news about two of those cases so far.
Last May, Debra D’Angelo and Paul Adler were cited by the U.S. Coast Guard (“USCG”) for allegedly violating a safety zone around Shell’s Arctic Challenger as it sat in Bellingham Bay preparing to go to the Arctic to support drilling operations. At the time, Debra’s daughter—Chiara D’Angelo—was attached to the anchor of the Arctic Challenger, using her body to stop it from leaving for the Arctic. Concerned about her daughter, Debra repeatedly requested that the Coast Guard allow her to see and check on Chiara’s health and safety.
“First, I felt compassion and understanding as to why my daughter responded to Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic with desperation and urgency. Arctic drilling would be catastrophic for the planet and humanity, and any efforts to delay Shell from exploratory drilling would mean a step towards saving the world. I also had a sense of panic and terror for my daughter’s safety and concern for her suffering.” — Debra D’Angelo
Debra made every effort to have the Coast Guard escort her to see her daughter to know that she was safe—she asked and waited, asked and waited. Finally, on the morning of May 24, Paul took Debra out in the water in his boat so she could try to see Chiara. The two agreed to not enter the safety zone, and made every effort to not enter the safety zone and to work with the Coast Guard to understand the safety zone boundaries. Despite their efforts, Debra and Paul were still charged with unauthorized entry into the Arctic Challenger’s safety zone. Debra received a USCG civil penalty demand for $250, and Paul received a civil penalty demand of $3,000.
As their cases moved forward with representation from CLDC, Debra and Paul challenged the violations, arguing that they were never within the safety zone. The Coast Guard charging officer could not produce evidence of them being in a location that placed them inside the safety zone. Based on Debra’s and Paul’s testimony and a lack of evidence from the charging officer, the Hearing Officers who oversaw Debra’s and Paul’s cases found that they had not violated the safety zone while they were both in Paul’s boat. The charge against Debra was dismissed. Paul’s civil penalty was reduced from $3,000 to $250 because the Hearing Officer found that there was evidence that he’d been within the safety zone at an earlier time, and a $250 penalty would be consistent with the penalties for the kayaktivists who were cited in Seattle on the morning the Polar Pioneer left the terminal.
“As a climate activist, I am convinced that we must stand up to fossil fuel companies. Facing a fine from the USCG was very scary, and learning that our case would be overseen by a USCG Hearing Officer was even more intimidating. But with the support of CLDC, I was able not only to assert my rights but to prevail by telling my story. I would not have had the courage to do that without the support of CLDC.” — Paul Adler
Stay tuned for updates about CLDC’s remaining ShellNo cases, including Chiara D’Angelo and Matt Fuller, activists who chained themselves to the anchor of the Arctic Challenger.
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