Shell Offshore, Inc., et al v. Greenpeace, Inc.
FILED OPINION (ALEX KOZINSKI, A. WALLACE TASHIMA and MILAN D. SMITH, JR.) AFFIRMED;On November 1, 2012, Shell filed a motion to dismiss the appeal for mootness, on the grounds that the preliminary injunction had expired by its own terms. Greenpeace argued in response that the case fell within a mootness exception. Our ruling today that the case is not moot operates as a denial of Shell s motion to dismiss. Judge: AWT Authoring, Judge: MDS Concurring & dissenting. FILED AND ENTERED JUDGMENT. --[COURT UPDATE: PDF of concurrence/dissent replaced with a corrected version. Resent NDA. 03/13/2013 by RY]
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UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
MAR 12 2013
MOLLY C. DWYER, CLERK
U .S. C O U R T OF APPE ALS
FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
SHELL OFFSHORE, INC., a Delaware
corporation; SHELL GULF OF MEXICO,
INC., a Delaware corporation,
D.C. No. 3:12 cv-0042 SLG
Plaintiffs - Appellees,
GREENPEACE, INC., a California
Defendant - Appellant.
Appeal from the United States District Court
for the District of Alaska
Sharon L. Gleason, District Judge, Presiding
Argued and Submitted October 9, 2012
KOZINSKI, Chief Judge, TASHIMA and M. SMITH, Circuit Judges.
Opinion by Judge A. Wallace Tashima
TASHIMA, Circuit Judge:
Shell Offshore, Inc. and Shell Gulf of Mexico, Inc. (together, “Shell”) hold
multi-year oil and gas leases in the Outer Continental Shelf (“OCS”), located in the
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Arctic Ocean off the coast of Alaska. Greenpeace, Inc. (“Greenpeace USA”) has
publicly undertaken a campaign to “stop Shell” from drilling in the Arctic. The
district court granted Shell’s motion for a preliminary injunction, which prohibited
Greenpeace USA from coming within a specified distance of vessels involved in
Shell’s Arctic OCS exploration and from committing various unlawful and tortious
acts against those vessels. Greenpeace USA argues that the action is not
justiciable, that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to issue its
order, and that the court erred in its application of Winter v. Natural Resources
Defense Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7 (2008), to the merits of Shell’s motion. We
conclude that the action presents a justiciable case or controversy, that the district
court had jurisdiction to issue its order, and that it did not abuse its discretion in
doing so. Accordingly, we affirm.
Greenpeace Efforts to Stop Arctic Drilling
Shell has presented evidence that Greenpeace USA and Greenpeace entities
around the world are publicly committed to stopping Shell’s exploration of its
Arctic OCS leases. Indeed, the websites of virtually all Greenpeace organizations,
including Greenpeace USA, prominently feature a campaign to “stop Shell.”
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But “stop Shell” is not merely a campaign of words and images. Greenpeace
USA also uses so-called “direct actions” to achieve its goals, and its general
counsel has conceded that direct action can include illegal activity. There is
evidence that Greenpeace USA and its counterparts around the globe are united in
the goal of stopping Shell. When Greenpeace activists forcibly boarded an oil rig
off the coast of Greenland in 2010 and used their bodies to impede a drilling
operation, Greenpeace USA’s executive director described their conduct as “bold
non-violent direct action” by “our activists.” Greenpeace USA similarly endorsed
the forcible boarding of a Shell vessel by Greenpeace New Zealand activists in
February 2012, again referring to them as “our brave activists.”
The record before the district court contained evidence that Greenpeace
activists used illegal “direct action” to interfere with legal oil drilling activities on
many such occasions. Several incidents involved Shell vessels that were
subsequently named in the district court’s preliminary injunction order and used in
Shell’s 2012 Arctic OCS drilling operation. See Shell Offshore Inc. v. Greenpeace,
Inc., 864 F. Supp. 2d 839, 854-55 (D. Alaska 2012). These incidents were as
Direct Action Against Shell’s Harvey Explorer Vessel
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Greenpeace USA activists unlawfully boarded the Harvey Explorer, a vessel
that Shell contracted to use in its Arctic OCS operation, in May 2010. The vessel
was in the Gulf of Mexico (and scheduled to depart for Alaska) when activists
boarded it, unfurled banners, and painted slogans on its walls.1
Direct Action Against Cairn Energy’s Arctic Drilling Operation
Shell adduced evidence that Greenpeace used direct action against another
energy company, Cairn Energy, in order to prevent Cairn from conducting OCS oil
and gas exploration activities in the Arctic Ocean. Greenpeace USA’s executive
director described the first such action in Greenpeace International’s 2010 Annual
In August, our activists evaded Danish navy commanders and scaled
Cairn’s exploration rig off Greenland, halting the operation – we
knew that, due to very tight deadlines, even a minor delay could have
a major effect; Cairn didn’t find oil in 2010.
Dkt. 56-19 (Ex. 1015 at 0005).
In 2011, Greenpeace activists again boarded a Cairn vessel off the coast of
Greenland. Approximately twenty such activists were arrested after climbing the
rig, attaching themselves under the rig in a “survival pod,” and hanging a few
Greenpeace USA has admitted that its activists boarded the Harvey
Explorer, but now argues – in passing – that the incident is “jurisdictionally
irrelevant to the current case,” presumably because it took place in the Gulf of
Mexico rather than the Arctic Ocean.
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meters from the drill bit. A news report posted on the Greenpeace Africa website
quoted one of the “climbers” as saying:
There’s no way Cairn can drill for oil while we’re hanging next to
their drill-bit, and it’s going to be extremely difficult for them to
remove our survival pod. To drill oil here would be dangerous
insanity. We have to stop the Arctic oil rush.
Dkt. 56-25 (Ex. 1020 at 0001).
Direct Action Against Shell’s Noble Discoverer Vessel
In February 2012, six Greenpeace New Zealand activists illegally boarded
and occupied the Shell drillship Noble Discoverer while it stopped at New Zealand
on its way to the Arctic Ocean. Activists equipped with survival gear scaled the
53-meter drilling tower, secured themselves to the rig, and unfurled “stop Shell”
banners. They were arrested by New Zealand authorities four days later.
Greenpeace USA, in its blog, endorsed the activists’ conduct and described them
as “our brave activists.” Dkt. 11-14 at 2. Its website described the incident as
“only the first chapter in what will undoubtedly be an epic battle.”
Direct Action Against Shell’s Nordica and Fennica Vessels
In March 2012, Greenpeace activists boarded and occupied the Nordica and
Fennica, two of Shell’s “icebreaker” support vessels, while in port in Finland.
Again in May 2012, Greenpeace activists twice boarded and occupied the Nordica
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while it transited through Swedish and Danish waters. Activists chained
themselves to the vessel, dropped weights and other objects in the water to obstruct
the vessel’s propulsion, and created a human blockade using divers.
Shell was scheduled to begin federally-authorized exploration of its Arctic
OCS leases in 2012. In the months leading up to the exploration, Shell first
obtained a temporary restraining order and then a preliminary injunction that
barred Greenpeace USA from coming within specified distances of named Shell
vessels2 involved in the OCS exploration. See Shell Offshore Inc. v. Geenpeace,
Inc., 2012 WL 1931537, at *16 (D. Alaska May 29, 2012) (amended order); Shell
Offshore, 864 F. Supp. 2d at 855 (original order). The injunction also prevented
Greenpeace USA from committing various tortious and illegal acts against those
vessels and their occupants.3 By its own terms, the injunction expired on October
Including within 1000 meters of the Noble Discoverer and the Kulluk.
The injunction barred Greenpeace from:
Breaking into or trespassing on [specified] vessels;
Tortiously or illegally interfering with the operation,
movement or progress of [specified] vessels;
Barricading, blocking, or preventing access to or egress
from [specified] vessels;
Tortiously or illegally endangering or threatening any
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31, 2012 – the last day of the 2012 Arctic Ocean open water season during which
Shell would explore its OCS leases.
Greenpeace USA challenges the injunction on several grounds: (1) that the
dispute does not present a justiciable case or controversy; (2) that the district court
lacked subject matter jurisdiction; (3) that Shell has sued the wrong Greenpeace
entity; and (4) that the district court based its ruling on legal standards and factual
findings that were erroneous. We conclude that each of these contentions lacks
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Our standard of review for preliminary injunction appeals is by now
We review the district court’s decision to grant or deny a preliminary
injunction for abuse of discretion. Our review is limited and
deferential. The district court’s interpretation of the underlying legal
principles, however, is subject to de novo review and a district court
abuses its discretion when it makes an error of law.
Sw. Voter Registration Educ. Project v. Shelley, 344 F.3d 914, 918 (9th Cir. 2003)
(en banc) (internal citations omitted); see also United States v. Hinkson, 585 F.3d
employee, contractor or visitor of Shell or any of its affiliates
who is present on, or as they enter or exit, [specified] vessels.
Shell Offshore, 864 F. Supp. 2d at 855.
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1247, 1251 (9th Cir. 2009) (en banc) (articulating our two-part test for abuse of
discretion). We review findings of fact for clear error. Thalheimer v. City of San
Diego, 645 F.3d 1109, 1115 (9th Cir. 2011). “Under this standard, [a]s long as the
district court got the law right, it will not be reversed simply because the appellate
court would have arrived at a different result if it had applied the law to the facts of
the case.” Id. (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted).
We review standing, ripeness, and mootness de novo. See Doe No. 1 v.
Reed, 697 F.3d 1235, 1238 (9th Cir. 2012); Stormans, Inc. v. Selecky, 586 F.3d
1109, 1119 (9th Cir. 2009). “[W]e have an independent obligation to consider
mootness sua sponte.” NASD Dispute Resolution, Inc. v. Judicial Council, 488
F.3d 1065, 1068 (9th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Standing and Ripeness
Greenpeace USA’s justiciability arguments are hazy, but appear to challenge
both Shell’s standing to sue and the ripeness of the dispute. “Article III standing
requires an injury that is actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical. In the
context of injunctive relief, the plaintiff must demonstrate a real or immediate
threat of irreparable injury.” Cole v. Oroville Union High Sch. Dist., 228 F.3d
1092, 1100 (9th Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted). The same facts by
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which Shell has shown (1) a likelihood of success on the merits of its claim that
Greenpeace USA would commit tortious or illegal acts against Shell’s Arctic
drilling operation in the absence of an injunction, and (2) that the resulting harm
would be irreparable, necessarily establish that Shell has standing to seek
injunctive relief. See infra, Parts V.B.1-2.
The dispute is also ripe because the facts are sufficiently developed and the
nature of the dispute warrants prompt adjudication. See Abbott Labs. v. Gardner,
387 U.S. 136, 149 (1967) (explaining that the ripeness inquiry considers “the
fitness of the issues for judicial decision and the hardship to the parties of
withholding court consideration”). Shell presented undisputed evidence that it is
only authorized to explore these leases during the narrow open water season of
July through October, and the district court concluded that it faced irreparable
harm absent injunctive relief; to withhold decision in such a context would work a
serious hardship upon Shell.
It is undisputed that the preliminary injunction expired by its own terms on
October 31, 2012 – after oral argument, but before this Court could render a
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decision. So we must determine whether the action is moot.4 We conclude that it
falls within the mootness exception for disputes “capable of repetition, yet evading
review.” NAACP, W. Region v. City of Richmond, 743 F.2d 1346, 1353 (9th Cir.
1984) (internal quotation marks omitted).
In order for the exception to apply, “(1) the duration of the challenged action
or injury must be too short to be fully litigated; and (2) there must be a reasonable
likelihood that the same party will be subject to the action again.” Id. As we
recently explained, “[c]ases that qualify under prong one present controversies of
inherently limited duration.” Doe No. 1, 697 F.3d at 1240. An action is “fully
litigated” if it is reviewed by this Court and the Supreme Court. See Alcoa, Inc. v.
Bonneville Power Admin., 698 F.3d 774, 786-87 (9th Cir. 2012).
A preliminary injunction limited to a single Arctic Ocean open water season,
that bars Greenpeace USA from physically interfering with Shell’s Arctic drilling
operation, will never last long enough to allow full litigation because of the
inherently limited duration of the open water season and, correspondingly, the
drilling season. Under its multi-year lease, Shell is legally authorized to drill only
On November 1, 2012, Shell filed a motion to dismiss the appeal for
mootness, on the grounds that the preliminary injunction had expired by its own
terms. Greenpeace argued in response that the case fell within a mootness
exception. Our ruling today that the case is not moot operates as a denial of Shell’s
motion to dismiss.
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between July 10 and October 31 of each year. The now-expired preliminary
injunction against Greenpeace USA was by its own terms limited to a total
duration of less than seven months, encompassing the drilling season, plus the time
necessary for Shell vessels to transit to the Arctic Ocean.5 Orders of such
inherently limited duration will almost always evade full review. See, e.g., United
States v. Oregon, 657 F.2d 1009, 1012 (9th Cir. 1985) (holding that American
Indian tribe’s appeal from an injunctive order banning salmon fishing in 1980 was
not moot even though the spring salmon run of 1980 was over and the order was
limited to that run).
Turning to the second prong, we have every reason to believe that the
underlying wrong will recur. Shell has drilling rights under a multi-year lease, and
there is no reason to believe that Greenpeace USA’s “stop Shell” campaign was
limited to the 2012 drilling season. We conclude that there is at minimum a
“reasonable expectation that the same complaining party [will] be subject to the
same action again.” Weinstein v. Bradford, 423 U.S. 147, 149 (1975).
The preliminary injunction ran from March 28, 2012, through October
31, 2012. See Shell Offshore, 864 F. Supp. 2d at 855. The district court did not
explain why it so temporally limited the injunction. It appears, however, from its
moving papers, that Shell sought a preliminary injunction only through the 2012
exploration drilling season.
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The preliminary injunction at issue protects specific Shell vessels as they
journey from shore-based facilities in the United States, through United States
territorial waters, and into the waters of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone
(“EEZ”) where rigs attach to the Arctic seabed and conduct exploration activities.
Greenpeace USA does not challenge the district court’s conclusion that, with
regard to injunctive relief in the United States and its territorial waters, the court
had subject matter jurisdiction based on diverse party citizenship. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332(a). Likewise, Greenpeace USA does not dispute that the Outer Continental
Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”) gave the court jurisdiction to grant injunctive relief
while Shell’s vessels are attached to the seabed. See 43 U.S.C. § 1333(a)(1)
(extending jurisdiction to the “seabed of the outer Continental Shelf and
to . . . devices permanently or temporarily attached to the seabed, which may be
erected thereon for the purpose of exploring for, developing, or producing
Greenpeace USA is now solely appealing the district court’s holding that
under 28 U.S.C. § 1333, it had admiralty jurisdiction to enjoin conduct relating to
vessels that were neither in U.S. territorial waters (where diversity jurisdiction
extends) nor attached to the seabed (where OCSLA jurisdiction extends) – that is,
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vessels transiting through the U.S. EEZ.6 We need not decide whether § 1333
provides jurisdiction over this particular stretch of an oil rig’s journey because a
court can exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the entire constitutional case. See
28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). The common nucleus of operative facts underlying Shell’s
claim for injunctive relief do not change when its vessels traverse an invisible line
separating U.S. territorial waters from the waters of the U.S. EEZ, nor at the
moment when its rigs detach from the seabed; this is therefore a single “case or
controversy” for the purposes of § 1367(a), and we conclude that the district court
did not err in exercising jurisdiction over it.
Whether Greenpeace USA is the Proper Entity to Enjoin
A common thread in Greenpeace USA’s various challenges is the argument
that Greenpeace USA was not directly involved in any prior attacks on Shell
vessels. But Shell does not need to show past injury by Greenpeace USA to
establish standing or to succeed on the merits of its preliminary injunction motion.
See Diamontiney v. Borg, 918 F.2d 793, 795 (9th Cir. 1990) (“[A]s commentators
have noted, ‘the injury need not have been inflicted when application [for an
See Shell Offshore, 2012 WL 1931537, at *2. The district court did
not reach the question of whether its diversity jurisdiction extended to the EEZ. Id.
at *5 n.42.
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injunction] is made or be certain to occur; a strong threat of irreparable injury
before trial is an adequate basis.’ Requiring a showing of actual injury would
defeat the purpose of the preliminary injunction, which is to prevent an injury from
occurring.” (quoting 11 Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice and
Procedure § 2948 at 437-38 (1973)); see also Restatement (Second) of Torts § 933
cmt. (1)(b) (“[A] common method of proving a threat of a future tort is by proving
a past tort under conditions that render its repetition or continuance probable. It is
not necessary, however, to prove past wrong.”).
Regardless, Greenpeace USA does not dispute evidence that its own activists
carried out the attack on Shell’s Harvey Explorer. And, although the record does
not make clear which Greenpeace entity was directly responsible for multiple
attacks on Cairn Energy vessels in the Arctic Ocean, Greenpeace USA’s executive
director essentially took credit for it, describing the perpetrators as “our activists”
and boasting that as a result of this direct action, “Cairn didn’t find oil in 2010.”
Dkt. 56-19 (Exh. 1015 at 0005). Accordingly, the district court observed that
although Shell had “not demonstrated that Greenpeace USA was directly involved
in either the New Zealand or Finnish incidents” involving the Noble Discoverer,
Nordica, and Fennica, other evidence showed that “stopping Shell and other oil
companies from drilling in the Arctic is more likely than not one of the overall
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priority strategies of Greenpeace worldwide, as well as of Greenpeace USA.”
Shell Offshore, 864 F. Supp. 2d at 848. We see no clearly erroneous factual
findings undergirding that conclusion.7
Grant of Preliminary Injunction
A plaintiff who seeks a preliminary injunction must show:
 that he is likely to succeed on the merits,  that he is likely to
suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief,  that
The dissent argues that Greenpeace USA’s legal status is relevant to
this appeal because “a person (or corporation) can be held legally responsible only
for his own actions, absent extraordinary circumstances.” Dissent at 3. But this
truism, which the dissent derives from cases involving decisions on the merits, see
First Nat’l City Bank v. Banco Para El Comercio Exterior de Cuba (Bancec), 462
U.S. 611, 618 (1983) (appeal from dismissal of complaint on the merits); NAACP
v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 U.S. 886, 896 (1982) (appeal from judgment
imposing damages liability), has no application to the present context of an appeal
from a preliminary injunctive order. To determine whether Shell has demonstrated
a likelihood of success on the merits, we must engage in a probabilistic inquiry, an
inquiry that simply was not addressed in Claiborne Hardware and Bancec.
The questionable nature of the dissent’s reliance on merits-based decisions is
further heightened by the limitations inherent in interlocutory review. Unlike
review of a decision on the merits, our preliminary injunction decisions are both
narrow in scope and rendered without benefit of a fully developed factual record.
See Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Salazar, — F.3d —, 2013 WL 440727, at *4
(9th Cir. Feb. 4, 2013). These limitations explain why, as we have observed time
and again, preliminary injunctions decisions are just that – “preliminary.” Id. at
*3; Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of Am. v. U.S.
Dep’t of Agric., 499 F.3d 1108, 1114 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting S. Or. Barter Fair v.
Jackson Cnty., 372 F.3d 1128, 1136 (9th Cir. 2004)). In light of the important
distinctions between review of a preliminary injunction versus a merits-based
review, we fail to see how Claiborne Hardware and Bancec can be instructive.
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the balance of equities tips in his favor, and  that an injunction is in
the public interest.
Winter, 555 U.S. at 20.
The district court applied the correct legal standard and as our discussion
below makes clear, it did so in a manner that was logical, plausible, and supported
by the record. See Hinkson, 585 F.3d at 1251. As such, we conclude that the
district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the preliminary injunction.
Likelihood of Success on the Merits
Greenpeace USA challenges the district court’s conclusion that Shell
“demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that it is likely that Greenpeace
USA would intend to commit tortious or illegal acts against Shell’s Arctic drilling
operations in the absence of preliminary injunctive relief.” Shell Offshore, 864 F.
Supp. 2d at 850. First, Greenpeace USA argues that the district court erred by
impermissibly shifting the burden of proof to it. The court explained that it
“accorded a minor degree of weight to the fact that there is no sworn statement in
this record from Greenpeace USA indicating that the organization will not attempt
tortious or unlawful acts this summer against Shell” and that, to the contrary, its
executive director stated publicly in March 2012 that “‘[w]hatever happens in
court, Greenpeace will continue to oppose Shell’s plans peacefully and
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vigorously.’” Id. at 849. The district court’s “weighing” of Greenpeace USA’s
silence amounts to an observation that contrary evidence offered by Shell stood
unrefuted. There is consequently no error here.
Second, Greenpeace USA argues that Shell failed to meet its burden. The
record before the district court contained evidence that: (1) Greenpeace USA
forcibly boarded and defaced a Shell vessel, the Harvey Explorer, as part of its
campaign to “stop Shell” from drilling in the Arctic; (2) on two occasions, activists
that Greenpeace USA termed “our activists” employed unlawful and tortious
means to stop another energy company (Cairn) from finding oil in the Arctic;
(3) Greenpeace USA conceded that it uses “direct action” – including unlawful
conduct – as means to an end; (4) Greenpeace USA and the global Greenpeace
organization share the goal of stopping Shell from drilling in the Arctic; and (5)
Greenpeace activists from other nations have on multiple occasions employed
unlawful or tortious means to stop Shell from drilling in the Arctic. On these facts,
we cannot say that the district court abused its discretion in concluding that Shell
met its burden. See Hinkson, 585 F.3d at 1251.
Likelihood of Irreparable Harm
The district court concluded that Shell demonstrated a likelihood of
irreparable harm absent injunctive relief because “illegal or tortious efforts to
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board or interfere with [its] vessels would be likely to present unacceptable risks to
human life, property and the environment.” Shell Offshore, 864 F. Supp. 2d at 851
(internal quotation marks omitted). In support of these findings, the court
considered evidence that actions of the sort undertaken by Greenpeace activists
against Shell vessels in New Zealand, Finland, and Greenland pose risks to the
safety of activists and vessel occupants alike. The court also found – and
Greenpeace USA does not dispute – that “if Greenpeace USA successfully
disrupted Shell’s operation, calculating the amount of economic harm would be
very difficult.” Id.
Greenpeace USA offers nothing beyond conclusory statements and case
summaries in support of its one-sentence argument that the “likelihood of future
injury is speculative and cannot be based on matters that occurred in 1997,8 or that
involved entities that are not Greenpeace USA.” The record provides ample
support for the conclusion that Greenpeace USA has either undertaken directly, or
embraced as its own, tactics that include forcible boarding of vessels at sea and the
use of human beings as impediments to drilling operations. We find it too plain for
debate that such tactics at minimum pose a serious risk of harm to human life,
We have searched the briefs in vain for clues as to which 1997 matters
Greenpeace USA refers.
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particularly if attempted in the extreme conditions of the Arctic Ocean, and that
such harm could find no adequate remedy at law. Accordingly, we find no abuse
of discretion in the district court’s conclusion. See Hinkson, 585 F.3d at 1251.
Balance of Equities
The district court concluded that “[b]y carefully tailoring preliminary
injunctive relief to focus on illegal and tortious conduct, and minimizing any
impact on Greenpeace USA’s right to monitor the activities and peacefully protest
against Shell within the confines of the law, . . . the balance of the equities remains
solidly tipped in Shell’s favor.” Shell Offshore, 864 F. Supp. 2d at 853.
Greenpeace USA argues that the court erred by failing to apply a standard that
would require the balance of hardships to tip “sharply” in Shell’s favor.
Under Winter, a preliminary injunction movant must show, inter alia, that
“the balance of equities tips in his favor.” 555 U.S. at 20. But if a plaintiff can
only show that there are “serious questions going to the merits” – a lesser showing
than likelihood of success on the merits – then a preliminary injunction may still
issue if the “balance of hardships tips sharply in the plaintiff’s favor,” and the other
two Winter factors are satisfied. Alliance for the Wild Rockies, 632 F.3d at 1135
(emphasis added). But the serious questions approach is inapplicable in this case
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because, as explained above, Shell demonstrated, and the district court found, a
likelihood of success on the merits.
We conclude that the district court did not err in finding that the balance of
equities favors Shell. Shell has an interest in conducting legally authorized
exploration of its Arctic leases without dangerous interference from Greenpeace
USA. Greenpeace USA has a countervailing First Amendment right to protest
Shell’s drilling activities, and the injunction imposes safety zones around Shell
vessels that prevent Greenpeace USA from exercising its rights in close proximity
to those vessels. Greenpeace USA argues that this is an undue speech restriction,
prohibited under Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of W.N.Y., 519 U.S. 357 (1997).
The safety zones do not prevent Greenpeace USA from communicating with
its target audience because, as the district court observed, Greenpeace USA has no
audience at sea. And although the injunction imposes a safety “bubble” around
Shell’s vessels, Greenpeace USA’s reliance on Schenck and its discussion of
bubble zones around abortion clinics is sorely misplaced. Speech is, of course,
most protected in such quintessential public fora as the public sidewalks
surrounding abortion clinics. See id. at 377. But the high seas are not a public
forum, and the lessons of Schenck have little applicability there.
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We conclude that, in light of the serious risk to human life and property
posed by the conduct that the preliminary injunction enjoins, and given the narrow
tailoring of the order, the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that
the scales of equity tip in Shell’s favor.
Finally, we must decide whether the district court abused its discretion in
concluding that an injunction is in the public interest. Congress has recognized a
public interest in the “expeditious and orderly development” of the OCS, see
Amoco Prod. Co. v. Vill. of Gambell, AK, 480 U.S. 531, 546 n.11 (1987) (quoting
43 U.S.C. § 1332(3)), and Shell’s Arctic OCS project is authorized by law.
Greenpeace USA argues that the district court failed to consider the public
interest in environmental protection before issuing the injunction. After reminding
the court of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Greenpeace USA argues that there is
an amplified public interest in “allow[ing] the public, including Greenpeace USA,
to monitor [oil drilling] activities.” Finally, Greenpeace USA argues that OCSLA
recognizes an interest in “public participation and environmental protection” that is
furthered by groups like itself.
The district court considered the public interest in having Greenpeace USA
monitor Shell’s Arctic drilling activities. In fact, the court agreed with Greenpeace
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USA’s OCSLA argument, stating that “OCSLA recognizes the important role that
environmental organizations such as Greenpeace USA may play in legal
proceedings regarding the development of the Outer Continental Shelf.” Shell
Offshore, 864 F. Supp. 2d at 852. The court also acknowledged that the injunction
could impact “Greenpeace USA’s otherwise legal activities.” Id. It responded by
crafting a narrow injunctive order that prohibited only illegal and tortious conduct
and by expressly inviting Greenpeace USA to
seek to modify [the] order so as to permit Greenpeace to more closely
monitor Shell’s activities within the safety zones established by [the]
order at such specific times, locations, and conditions that [the] court
may order after each party has been accorded an opportunity to be
heard on any such motion.
Id. at 856. We cannot say that this treatment of public interest factors constituted
an abuse of discretion.
The district court did not abuse its discretion in granting Shell’s motion for a
preliminary injunction, which is amply supported by the record. Consequently, the
preliminary injunction order is AFFIRMED.
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Counsel of Record
Rebecca J. Hozubin and Michael A. Moberly (argued), Law Office of Hozubin &
Moberly, Anchorage, Alaska, for Defendant-Appellant.
Jeffrey W. Leppo (argued), Ryan P. Steen and Jason T. Morgan, Stoel Rives, LLP
Seattle, Washington, and James Torgerson, Stoel Rives LLP, Anchorage, Alaska,
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MAR 12 2013
Shell Offshore, Inc. v. Greenpeace, Inc., No. 12-35332
M. SMITH, Circuit Judge, concurring in part and dissenting in part:
MOLLY C. DWYER, CLERK
U .S. C O U R T OF APPE ALS
I concur with Parts III and IV of the majority opinion that discuss
justiciability and jurisdiction. I part ways with the majority, however, where it
holds that Shell may impute the actions of other independent Greenpeace entities to
Greenpeace USA in order to meet Shell’s burden of proof.1 Because I cannot
support the imposition of legal sanctions on Greenpeace USA based, in significant
part, on the conduct of others that Greenpeace USA does not control, I respectfully
The majority claims that Greenpeace USA was properly enjoined because
the “evidence showed that stopping Shell and other oil companies from drilling in
the Arctic is more likely than not one of the overall priority strategies of
Greenpeace Worldwide, as well as of Greenpeace USA.” (Maj. Op. at 14–15)
(quoting Shell Offshore Inc. v. Greenpeace, Inc., 864 F. Supp. 2d 839, 848 (D.
Alaska 2012)). Of course, Greenpeace USA does not dispute that it seeks to stop
Shell from drilling in the Arctic. Rather, Greenpeace USA disputes that Shell has
presented sufficient evidence to show that Greenpeace USA will likely use illegal
As discussed more fully below, Greenpeace USA is one of sixteen
independent voting members of Stichting Greenpeace Council (a.k.a., Greenpeace
International), and is the only Greenpeace entity that is a party to this case.
Page: 25 of 33
methods to achieve its goal. Because Greenpeace USA is unquestionably entitled
to lawfully protest Shell’s drilling activities, the real issue in this case is whether
Shell has sufficiently proved that Greenpeace USA is likely to take “imminent”
unlawful action unless it is enjoined. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S.
555, 560–61 (1992).
Relying heavily on evidence of previous unlawful encounters between
“Greenpeace activists” and Shell, such as the boarding of the Noble Discoverer in
New Zealand and the boarding of the Nordica and Fennica in Finland, the majority
concludes that Shell has met its burden. The majority’s reliance on these acts is
troubling, however, because even the majority admits that Greenpeace USA played
no part in these events.2 In order to sufficiently link these activities to Greenpeace
USA, the majority advances two theories, both of which are ill-conceived. First,
the majority claims that “Shell does not need to show past injury by Greenpeace
USA” to be entitled to legal relief. (Maj. Op. at 13) (emphasis added).
Alternatively, the majority claims that because Greenpeace USA reported on the
unlawful actions of other Greenpeace entities on its website, and made reference to
the members of such Greenpeace groups as “our activists,” Greenpeace USA
The record is clear that the Noble Discoverer was boarded by members of
Greenpeace New Zealand, while the Nordica and Fennica were boarded by
members of Greenpeace Nordic.
Page: 26 of 33
“endorsed” those actions, thereby permitting us to hold Greenpeace USA
responsible for the underlying conduct in this litigation. (Maj. Op. 5). For the
reasons discussed below, I disagree with both propositions.
The Separate Legal Status of Greenpeace USA Is Relevant to This
It is axiomatic that a plaintiff must sue the proper party in order to obtain
relief. See, e.g., Krupski v. Costa Crociere S.p.A., 130 S. Ct. 2485, 2494 (2010)
(“[M]aking a deliberate choice to sue one party instead of another while fully
understanding the factual and legal differences between the two parties is the
antithesis of making a mistake concerning the proper party’s identity.”).3 It is
similarly well recognized that a person (or corporation) can be held legally
responsible only for his own actions, absent extraordinary circumstances. See, e.g.,
N.A.A.C.P. v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 U.S. 886, 920 (1982) (“Civil liability
may not be imposed merely because an individual belonged to a group, some
members of which committed acts of violence.”); First Nat. City Bank v. Banco
Leonard v. Parry, 219 F.3d 25, 29 (1st Cir. 2000) (“[E]ven the most liberal
interpretation of ‘mistake’ cannot include a deliberate decision not to sue a party
whose identity plaintiff knew from the outset.”) (quotation omitted); Springman v.
AIG Mktg., Inc., 523 F.3d 685, 690 (7th Cir. 2008) (“the maintenance for years of a
suit against a party known by the plaintiff to be the wrong one to sue was an abuse
of legal process”).
Page: 27 of 33
Para El Comercio Exterior de Cuba (Bancec), 462 U.S. 611, 625 (1983)
(“Separate legal personality has been described as an almost indispensable aspect
of the public corporation.”). Certainly Shell understands these principles well—its
own corporate disclosure statement takes up nearly a full page of its answering
brief,4 listing all of the subsidiaries and entities Shell admittedly relies on to limit
its own liability.5 Yet when it comes to Greenpeace USA, what is sauce for the
goose is apparently not sauce for the gander.
Appellee Shell Offshore Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of SOI Finance
Inc., which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Shell US E&P Investments LLC,
which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Shell Oil Company, which, in turn, is a
wholly owned subsidiary of Shell Petroleum Inc., which is a wholly owned
subsidiary of Shell Petroleum N.V., which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal
Dutch Shell plc. (Appellee’s Corporate Disclosure Statement). Shell Offshore Inc.
is itself the parent corporation of Enterprise Oil North America Inc., which in turn
is the parent company of Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc., the other Shell appellee in this
Consider the following exchange with Shell’s counsel at oral argument:
The Court: I am very well aware that Shell has thousands of corporate and
other entities and I have never heard a Shell representative basically say these are
all worthless; we should treat them all as just one entity.
Mr. Leppo: And I’m not saying that your honor . . . I will never make that
Page: 28 of 33
The majority claims that Greenpeace USA can be held to account for the
actions of legally separate Greenpeace entities. But well-established law, as well
as basic fairness, dictates otherwise. As the Supreme Court noted in a similar case:
The taint of violence colored the conduct of some petitioners.
They, of course, may be held liable for the consequences of their
violent deeds. The burden of demonstrating that it colored the entire
collective effort, however, is not satisfied by evidence that violence
occurred . . . Such a characterization must be supported by findings
that adequately disclose the evidentiary basis for concluding that
specific parties agreed to use unlawful means[.]
Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 U.S. at 933 (emphasis added).
Applying these principles to the case before us, Greenpeace USA should
only be legally sanctioned for the actions of other independent entities on a
sufficient showing that Greenpeace USA significantly coordinated with,
encouraged, or controlled the actions of those groups. See, e.g., id. at 932–34 (the
fact that certain activists engaged in unlawful conduct cannot be attributed to other
protest organizers unless it could be shown that the latter had personally committed
or authorized the unlawful acts); Bancec, 462 U.S. at 626–29 (explaining that
“limited liability is the rule, not the exception,” and thus one corporate entity may
only be held liable for the actions of another “where a corporate entity is so
extensively controlled by its owner that a relationship of principal and agent is
Page: 29 of 33
The record here, however, does not demonstrate such pervasive control.
Instead, the record indicates that Greenpeace USA functions as an operationally
independent member of Stichting Greenpeace Council (a.k.a., Greenpeace
International), the Amsterdam-based “parent” entity that licenses the Greenpeace
name to groups like Greenpeace USA. Together with the other fifteen voting
members of Greenpeace International, Greenpeace USA helps set Greenpeace’s
worldwide campaign priorities, such as preventing oil drilling in the Arctic, or
logging in the Amazon. But when it comes to the methods and tactics used to
advance those priorities, the record makes clear that each Greenpeace licensee is
autonomous, and free to choose the tactics most likely to resonate with its local
constituency. Thus, while Greenpeace New Zealand and Greenpeace Nordic may
seek to advance the global “stop Shell” campaign through the unlawful boarding of
Shell vessels, Greenpeace USA may choose more benign tactics, like the letterwriting campaign Greenpeace USA admits it coordinated through its website.
Understood in its correct factual context, it is legally improper to impute the
independent tactical choices of other Greenpeace licensees to Greenpeace USA in
this litigation. Yet under the majority’s newly announced rule, Greenpeace USA’s
separate legal status has no bearing on our decision. Of course, as previously
noted, courts have consistently held just the opposite, and found that a party’s
Page: 30 of 33
individual culpability is a key factor in fashioning an appropriate legal remedy.
See, e.g., Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 U.S. at 932–34.6 The majority does not
adequately explain why this case should be decided any differently, and absent
such justification, I cannot endorse its permissive and pernicious new rule.7
Without sufficient proof of what Greenpeace USA itself has done to threaten
Shell’s Arctic drilling operations, I would not grant a preliminary injunction.
Mere Endorsement of Criminal Conduct Cannot Support an Injunction
In addition to improperly relying on the direct evidence of illegal acts
committed by non-party Greenpeace entities, the majority also relies on
Greenpeace USA’s “endorsement” of such acts to support its conclusion that
Greenpeace USA was properly enjoined here. Put simply, the majority implies that
Greenpeace USA can be enjoined, at least in part, because Greenpeace USA wrote
Scales v. United States, 367 U.S. 203, 228–30 (1961); Schware v. Bd. of
Bar Exam. of State of N.M., 353 U.S. 232, 244 (1957); Anderson v. Abbott, 321
U.S. 349, 357–62 (1944); Louisiana-Pacific Corp. v. ASARCO, Inc., 5 F.3d 431,
433–34 (9th Cir. 1993).
Contrary to the majority’s assertion in its own footnote seven, there is no
justification for distinguishing between types of requested relief when considering
whether a plaintiff has adequately sued the proper party. To obtain any legal relief,
a plaintiff must sue the correct entity. Any other rule is simply nonsensical and
contrary to long-established precedent. See, e.g., Bancec, 462 U.S. at 626–29
Page: 31 of 33
favorably about the unlawful activities of groups like Greenpeace New Zealand,
and described those groups’ activists as “our activists.” Again, I disagree.
My first ground for disagreement is factual. Although Shell tries its best to
paint Greenpeace USA’s statements as imminent threats, they are clearly no such
thing. That Greenpeace USA officially referred to those members of Greenpeace
New Zealand who unlawfully boarded the Noble Discoverer as “our brave
activists,” and described the incident as “only the first chapter in what will
undoubtedly be an epic battle,” is unremarkable. These statements say nothing
about Greenpeace USA’s own planned involvement in any “epic battle,” let alone
shed light on Greenpeace USA’s contemplated “battle” tactics. Rather,
Greenpeace USA’s statements are fully consistent with its claim that it plans to
protest Shell’s Arctic drilling using only legal methods.8
More importantly, however, the majority’s “endorsement” test is legally illadvised, because it is likely to have an unintended chilling effect on otherwise
protected speech. No party to these proceedings claims that Greenpeace USA’s
blog posts fall outside the protections of the First Amendment. See Brandenburg
Contrary to what the district court found, Greenpeace USA denied that it
intended to illegally interfere with Shell’s activities. Greenpeace USA’s sworn
denial in its verified answer was all that was necessary, since Shell has the burden
of proof in this case. See Thalheimer v. City of San Diego, 645 F.3d 1109, 1116
(9th Cir. 2011).
Page: 32 of 33
v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444, 447–48 (1969) (“advocacy of the use of force or of law
violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent
lawless action” is protected under the Constitution); Planned Parenthood of
Columbia/Willamette, Inc. v. Am. Coal. of Life Activists, 290 F.3d 1058, 1072 (9th
Cir. 2002) (en banc) (“If ACLA had merely endorsed or encouraged the violent
actions of others, its speech would be protected.”) (emphasis added). Praising civil
disobedience and promising further protest in no way rises to the level of
incitement or a true threat. See id. at 1089 (Kozinski, J. dissenting) (“The
difference between a true threat and protected expression is this: A true threat
warns of violence or other harm that the speaker controls.”) (emphasis added). Yet
by premising the grant of a preliminary injunction, at least in part, on Greenpeace
USA’s clearly protected political speech, the majority indirectly penalizes
Greenpeace USA for behavior that cannot be punished directly. Chief Judge
Kozinski, now in the majority, stated the issue well in dissent: “Like Claiborne
Hardware, this case involves a concerted effort by a variety of groups and
individuals in pursuit of a common political cause. Some of the activities were
lawful, others were not. In both cases, there was evidence that the various players
communicated with each other and, at times, engaged in concerted action. The
Supreme Court, however, held that mere association with groups or individuals
Page: 33 of 33
who pursue unlawful conduct is an insufficient basis for the imposition of liability,
unless it is shown that the defendants actually participated in or authorized the
illegal conduct.” Id. at 1095.
Because the record here does not show that Greenpeace USA actually
participated in or authorized much of the illegal conduct relied on by the majority,
I respectfully dissent.
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