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Greenpeace activists occupy Alberta Shell Upgrader in Fort Saskatchewan

Greenpeace activists occupy Alberta Shell site

By Richard Warnica and Laura Drake, Edmonton Journal
October 3, 2009 2:52 PM

Greenpeace activists occupy an exhaust stack at the Shell Scotford Upgrader Expansion near Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. on October 3, 2009
Photograph by: Ryan Jackson, Edmonton Journal

FORT SASKATCHEWAN, Alta. — Greenpeace protesters occupied an oilfield property outside Edmonton on Saturday, the third dramatic demonstration the group has staged against Alberta’s controversial oilsands development in recent weeks.

Greenpeace spokeswoman Jessica Wilson said a group of 16 demonstrators locked themselves onto three stacks and a crane at the expansion site of Shell Canada Ltd.’s Scotford upgrader in Fort Saskatchewan.

The activists gained access to the site by scaling an under-construction upgrader, according to the group.

Greenpeace said that while 16 of its members were on site, three others had been stopped, arrested and charged with mischief and trespassing.

Fort Saskatchewan is 38 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.

Jeffrey Bradshaw was on top of one of the stacks with two other activists on Saturday.

Reached by phone, he said a fourth member of the group was blocking the ladder up to the stacks with hand-held locks and his body, so no one else could climb up. Bradshaw said a large group of police were below the stack he was on.

“I would prefer not to be arrested, but I’m not afraid,” he said.

Officers from two Alberta RCMP detachments were on site, a police spokesman said.

The group of protesters was made up of people from Canada, France, Brazil and Australia, Greenpeace said.

“Greenpeace is occupying the upgrader in the heart of what many affected land owners call ‘cancer alley’ to continue exposing the climate crimes associated with producing dirty, dangerous and destructive tarsands oil,” protester Melina Laboucan-Massim said in a statement.

“We’re disappointed,” said Shell Canada spokesman Phil Vircoe. “Greenpeace chooses to use these unsafe and confrontational tactics that don’t really address their issues.”

The safety of the protesters and of employees at Shell properties is the company’s first concern, Vircoe said.

There were a few employees at the Fort Saskatchewan site when the activists broke in, he said, but no construction was happening because it’s the weekend.

This is the third time in recent weeks Greenpeace has protested sites in Alberta.

On Wednesday, 21 activists were granted bail by an Alberta court after they occupied the Suncor site near Fort McMurray, Alta., by floating down the Athabasca River.

The protesters blocked conveyor belts and unfurled a large banner on the river.

The oilsands have become a target for environmental activists around the world because the production of its heavy oil emits an estimated three times more greenhouse gases than conventional oil.

The latest protest comes a day after the release of a study, which Greenpeace helped fund, which said that greenhouse gas emissions from oilsands operations are worse than reported because oil companies and governments do not include emissions from forests destroyed in the process of developing mines.

- with files from Canwest News Service

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