The event is now known as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest Presented by Shell, sponsorship that has met with mixed reaction.
"Some people are just absolutely offended by it. I know people haven't been to Jazz Fest since that happened. Some people are very thankful. They go, 'Oh, they saved Jazz Fest,' " said Aaron Viles, deputy director of the Gulf Restoration Network, a 17-year-old environmental advocacy organization.
Shell is No. 1 in employee contributions to the United Way in Southeast Louisiana; company executive John Hollowell is chairing this year's fundraising campaign there.
One Shell Square, its 51-story skyscraper in the heart of downtown New Orleans, is Louisiana's tallest building, a cousin to its U.S. headquarters in Houston.
If Shell gets to move ahead with its plans for the Arctic, the company expects to build an Alaska headquarters in Anchorage.
"In one very significant way, that is what success looks like," said Curtis Smith, a spokesman for Shell in Alaska.
The 65 or so Shell employees already here work out of two floors in the Frontier Building in Midtown. Just recently, one of its New Orleans-based contractors, Superior Energy Services, signed a five-year lease on part of the building housing the Anchorage Daily News, a McClatchy newspaper and the publisher of this report.
When other oil companies moved their Gulf operational headquarters out of downtown New Orleans, Shell stayed.
"Here in New Orleans, they're a much-admired company," said Eric Smith, a Tulane University professor and associate director of the business school's Energy Institute. "They've been here as long as there's been oil around here."
And they're the oil company others learn from. Literally.
"They have pioneered all the development of deep-water (wells) in the area," Eric Smith said.
When Shell and BP joined up years ago on a deep-water Gulf of Mexico platform, Shell was the operator.
"BP went to school on Shell," Smith said.
Shell's training center near here - with classes in drilling, production, safety, electronics and more - is open to its competitors. The facility served as an initial base of operations during the Deepwater Horizon crisis.
The blowout on BP's Macondo prospect, involving the Deepwater Horizon rig, killed 11 workers and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Shell's chief well scientist, Charlie Williams, was a top adviser to the Deepwater Horizon incident commander. Williams is now board chairman of the new Center for Offshore Safety, an industry-led group that will help oil companies comply with tougher requirements, some of them mirroring what Shell already does.
Shell had a disastrous Gulf of Mexico well blowout and fire, too, back in 1970 in the Bay Marchand field, which was offshore though not in deep water.
Four men were killed; 2.2 million gallons of oil leaked into the Gulf over a number of months; 10 relief wells were drilled.
The spill was Shell's worst ever. As with the Deepwater Horizon, things went wrong in ways no one expected and people made mistakes.
Bea, who worked as a Shell engineer in the 1960s and '70s, helped design the multiwell platform in the Bay Marchand field.
"Something overcame Shell. I'll call it the drive to make money," Bea said.
Still, Shell learned and became more cautious after system failures, including that one, he said.
"Overall in terms of industry and being able to handle these kinds of complex systems - and I include the arctic environment in those systems - Shell is among the best in the world," Bea said.
In the mid-2000s, Shell planned to build a liquefied natural gas terminal offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. The terminal was designed to suck up hundreds of millions of gallons of seawater a day in the process of warming and vaporizing the super-chilled liquid gas. Eggs and larva in the water would have been killed.
Environmentalists mobilized against the "open loop" design. A group went to The Hague in the Netherlands to protest at a Shell shareholder meeting. Others railed about different issues, including Shell's troubles in Nigeria. People waved signs. Protesters took to the mic. As Viles, the activist with the Gulf Restoration Network, remembers it, Shell let them all vent.
About the same time, Greenpeace activists were going after Exxon at its annual meeting in Dallas.
"My friends from Greenpeace were getting arrested, and Shell was greeting us with coffee and chocolate and inviting us to stay after the meeting to drink Heineken at the bar with their executives," Viles said.
It wasn't just to smooth things over - Shell wanted to hear what they had to say, he said.
Ultimately, Shell dropped the project. An executive flew to New Orleans to tell the environmental opposition before announcing the decision publicly.
But in a different case, according to Viles, Shell flubbed it.
A large coalition of environmentalists, fishermen, corporate watchdogs and others - including some Alaskans - confronted Shell in 2008 about a growing and expensive problem: the rapid loss of wetland in coastal Louisiana. Scientists have found that dredging for oil and gas pipelines was one of the chief contributors to the loss, the group, led by the Gulf Restoration Network, said in a November 2008 letter.
"Shell, we are asking you to act to restore the wetlands that have been damaged due to your oil and gas exploration and development in Louisiana," the group said. It wanted Shell to pay up to $362 million for restoration efforts.
Shell replied with a form letter.
"Thank you for your recent inquiry requesting our financial support," the "Dear Applicant" denial said. "Your inquiry, unfortunately, falls outside the scope of our current guidelines for grant-making."
Viles said he followed up with Shell, but didn't get much more of a response.
Meanwhile, Shell has its name as world sponsor on an effort called America's Wetland Foundation. The initiative, which includes a variety of businesses and environmental groups, puts attention on problems arising from the loss of Mississippi River Delta wetland and advocates for solutions.
The group supports federal funding for restoration of the wetland.
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