Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Judge Upholds Foss’ Terminal 5 Lease

By Mark Edward Nero

On July 31, a King County judge upheld a land lease between Foss Maritime and the Port of Seattle, saying that the Terminal 5 deal is valid, despite claims to the contrary by environmental groups.

In his decision, Judge Douglass North ruled that the port, which bypassed an environmental review when awarding the lease, was within its right to do so.

The port signed the two-year lease with Foss Maritime on Feb. 9, giving Foss 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.

On March 2 however, a coalition of five environmental groups – Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, the Sierra Club, Washington Environmental Council, Seattle Audubon Society and Earthjustice – filed a challenge against the port’s lease on the grounds that the lease would change the use of Terminal 5 by converting it into a homeport for Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling fleet.

They argued that such usage would not comply with the mandate that the terminal be used strictly as a transport facility where quantities of goods or container cargo are stored and transferred to other carriers and/or locations.

After Judge North’s ruling, attorney Patti Goldman, who’s representing the various environmental groups, said she would have to talk to the plaintiffs before deciding whether to appeal.

Despite the victory for the port and Foss, the status of the lease is still in question, however.
In early May, the Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) ruled that an additional use permit is required for the moorage of a drilling rig and accompanying tugboats by Shell Oil at Terminal 5. The port and Foss have challenged the ruling, and a hearing on the matter is scheduled for Aug. 13.

“The judge’s ruling … confirms what we’ve known all along: Terminal 5 is properly permitted to tie up these vessels, sometimes for extended periods,” Foss spokesman Paul Queary said in a statement. “We look forward to the hearing examiner reaching the same conclusion.”