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Coast Guard 'First Amendment Zone' For Groups Protesting Arctic Offshore Drilling

Donna Gordon Blankinship
AP Photo
Ships bringing oil drilling equipment to Alaska pass through Seattle’s Elliott Bay on Wednesday, June 27, 2012.";

A drill rig that could be used for oil drilling in the Arctic will arrive in Port Angeles on Friday and remain there for about two weeks before it heads to Seattle.

Protesters have said they plan to meet it when it arrives in Seattle in May.

In a statement, the Port of Port Angeles said the 400-foot Polar Pioneer will be off-loaded and then have equipment installed.

The Coast Guard says protesters will have to stay 100 yards away from the rig when it is anchored - and 500 yards away when it is in transit.

Chief Petty Officer Sara Mooers, with Seattle’s district 13 says the restrictions are about keeping everyone safe, while still allowing for free speech. Given that, the Coast Guard has established a voluntary “first amendment zone.”

“That was chosen in consort with environmental groups here in the Seattle area, so that they can express their views on Arctic drilling without being in danger of being in traffic lanes or other areas, but still close enough to Terminal 5 and vessel activity that their point isn’t lost,” she said.

Conservationists opposed to Arctic offshore drilling say oil companies have not demonstrated they can clean up a major spill.

Royal Dutch Shell hopes to use the rig for exploratory drilling during the summer open-water season in the Chukchi  Sea off Alaska's northwest coast. Less than a week ago, activists boarded the rigbefore departing when seas became too rough. 

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to