Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Activists Protest at Seattle Port

By Mark Edward Nero

An estimated 200 environmental activists marched to the entrance of Terminal 5 at the Port of Seattle the morning of May 18 to protest against proposed future Arctic drilling by Shell Oil Co.

Shell plans to use Seattle as a base to store and maintain rigs and other equipment as it resumes exploration and drilling this summer in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska, an area it hasn’t drilled since 2012.

Under a two-year lease signed in February, Foss Maritime was given the right to short-term moorage and vessel operations along 50 acres at the port’s 156-acre Terminal 5, which is currently undergoing renovation. Under the lease, Foss was expected to alter the terminal for the layberthing of Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet.

On March 2 however, a coalition of five environmental groups filed a challenge against the port’s lease. And on May 4, the Seattle Department of Planning and Development released a report concluding that an additional use permit is required for the proposed seasonal moorage of the Polar Pioneer drilling rig and accompanying tugboats.

The Port of Seattle Commission on May 12 voted to appeal the city’s ruling but also asked Foss to abide by the current City of Seattle regulations, pending legal review. A Shell spokesman, however, said the oil company intends to move ahead with its plans to dock two rigs at the port despite the permit questions and protests.

A timeline of when Arctic exploration would resume was not yet known, he said.

The 30-year-old Polar Pioneer, which Shell plans to use to drill off Alaska’s northwest coast this summer, arrived in Seattle May 14. Two days later, hundreds of protesters in kayaks, small boats and other vessels turned out a “Paddle in Seattle” protest.

Protesters have said they’re worried about the risk of oil spill in the Arctic as well as the effects of burning fossil fuels on climate change.