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Seattle mayor snubs Shell’s Arctic oil-drilling fleet

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Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 19.49.45Seattle mayor snubs Shell’s Arctic oil-drilling fleet: 5 May 2015

Local officials are trying to stop Shell’s Arctic oil-drilling fleet from docking at Seattle’s harbor for the summer, saying that current arrangements go against the port terminal’s land-use permit. Shell has multiple ships and oil rigs en route.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said the current contract between the Port of Seattle and a company representing Royal Dutch Shell PLC violates the land-use permit for the port’s Terminal 5, and that the Port would have to apply for a new permit.

After reviewing the 20-year-old permit for the operation of the cargo terminal, [Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development] has found and I concur that the long-term moorage and maintenance of Arctic drilling equipment falls outside the current permit,” the mayor said Monday morning at a fundraising breakfast for Climate Solutions, a self-described “clean-energy economy” nonprofit.

“I expect the Port to obtain all required city permits before any moorage or work begins at Terminal 5 on Shell’s oil and drilling equipment,” he added.

Shell was planning to base its fleet of polar oil exploration vessels in Seattle for six months each year when they were not being used in the Arctic. Foss Maritime, the company’s Seattle-based contractor, said that basing the drilling fleet at the terminal would be no different than the normal handling of shipping containers.

While requiring the new permit would not immediately halt the port’s plans, it has created a chance to reconsider the arrangement and be more environmentally friendly, Murray said.

This is an opportunity, I believe, for the Port and all of us to make a bold statement about how oil companies contribute to climate change, oil spills and other environmental disasters and reject this short-term lease,” he said.

Paul Queary, a spokesman for Foss Maritime, said the company was moving ahead with the plans to host Shell’s fleet, having already paid the Port of Seattle $3 million for the lease of Terminal 5 and employed hundreds of people on the site for months.

Two oil rigs are currently on their way to Seattle: the Noble Discoverer headed for the city under its own power, and the 400-foot-long Polar Pioneer currently at the port of Los Angeles. The icebreaker, Aiviq, is already at the terminal, as well as the 392-foot cargo ship, Harvey Supporter, which about 40 dockworkers have been loading.

It’s extremely disappointing that city officials are starting to determine which cargoes are going to be handled in port operations,” Cam Williams, president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 19, told the Puget Sound Business Journal.

Our position is that this is a dispute between the city and the Port,” Queary added. “We’re already doing work and at this point we’re going to go forward with that unless we hear differently from the Port.

Mayor Murray, however, makes no secret of his desire to keep the oil fleet far away from Seattle.

Things like oil trains and coal trains and oil-drilling rigs are the past,” he told the Climate Solutions fundraiser. “It’s time to focus on the economy of the future. Clean energy, electric cars and transit, green homes and an environmentally progressive business community.”

Murray’s position drew praise from environmental groups and activists opposed to Arctic drilling, reported the Seattle Times.

This is the type of due diligence we need from our leaders when it comes to Shell’s reckless Arctic drilling plans,” said John Deans, Arctic campaign specialist at Greenpeace. “The Port of Seattle has associated itself with Shell’s culture of environmental disregard, and Mayor Murray is doing the right thing by urging the Port to reconsider the lease.”

We hope the Port will do the right thing and use this as the rationale for rescinding the lease,” said Emily Johnston of 350 Seattle, part of the “Shell No!” coalition.

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Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 08.12.45City Says ‘No’ To Shell’s Arctic Drilling Fleet, For Now

The city of Seattle said Monday that a new permit is needed for Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling fleet to dock at Terminal 5, a stance that could bring more conflict with the port.

The city Department of Planning and Development released an interpretation that said seasonal moorage of a drilling rig and tugboats wasn’t consistent with the site’s use as a cargo terminal under the Port of Seattle’s lease with Foss Maritime.

The prospect of having to get another use permit could substantially delay or even prevent Shell from moving the huge Polar Pioneer rig to West Seattle.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said he hopes that the port will step back from the issue and will not resubmit its request.

“I believe that Seattle and our port should be investing in the economy of the future. We know that because of climate change that oil drilling and oil rigs are going to be the economy of the past,” Murray said, speaking with Marcie Sillman on KUOW’s The Record.

Josh Feit, editor of Publicola, said the issue represented “business as usual with the port and the city at each other’s throats.

“I think the mayor has delivered a political hot potato to the port so I think this really strains the relationship. And I think what ends up happening is that if they do reapply, that’s just going to anger the mayor too,” Feit said to Sillman.

Shell Oil’s Polar Pioneer arrived in Port Angeles April 17 aboard the carrier Blue Marlin in preparation for inspection before the trip to Seattle.

Another Shell rig, the Noble Discover, also is heading from Asia to Seattle.

Activists have protested the use of the Port of Seattle site for maintaining Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling fleet. They say that drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic is inherently dangerous and that Seattle shouldn’t support that project. They also worry about contamination of Puget Sound by maintenance activities.

In a statement Monday, the environmental group EarthJustice urged the port to “use this opportunity to reevaluate the Port’s priorities and to reject Shell’s use of Seattle’s waters as a homeport for its harmful Arctic drilling operations.”

Shell’s exploratory efforts in the Arctic have been hurt by several accidents.

At the end of 2012, one of its drill rigs ran aground on an island in the Gulf of Alaska while being towed to Seattle. The rig was sent to Singapore for repairs, and the company lost out on the 2013 drilling season.

That incident came less than four months after an accident in Anacortes, Wash., kept Shell from drilling for Arctic oil in 2012. In an underwater test off Samish Island, the company’s oil-spill containment system was “crushed like a beer can,” in the words of a federal inspector who witnessed the test.

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Yereth RosenAlaska Dispatch News

May 4, 2015

A drill ship that Shell intends to use to drill oil wells in Arctic waters off Alaska cannot be moored at the Port of Seattle without a new permit, Seattle city officials said Monday.

The Polar Pioneer drill ship and its accompanying tugboats do not — for now — belong at the port’s Terminal 5, a site currently devoted to cargo ships, Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development said in a finding released Monday.

The port lease held by Shell contractor Foss Maritime covers only cargo operations, not moorage and maintenance of oil rigs and oil-related vessels, the department said in its finding.

For Foss to use its lease to moor the Polar Pioneer and its tugs at the terminal, the port must obtain a new permit, the department said in its findings.

That process could take “several weeks,” said Jason Kelly, a spokesman for Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.

The lease Foss holds was intended to allow the company to use the port terminal to moor the Polar Pioneer and its tugs for up to six months of the year, the period when drilling is not occurring.

Shell’s reaction to the finding was terse. “We are reviewing the interpretation,” the company said in a statement sent by Alaska spokeswoman Megan Baldino.

The Polar Pioneer is one of two drill ships that Shell has contracted to operate in the remote Chukchi Sea off northwestern Alaska. The other drill ship Shell plans to use is the Noble Discoverer.

Only the Polar Pioneer was scheduled to use the Port of Seattle terminal, according to Seattle city officials. The ship and its tugs have not yet arrived at the site, Kelly said.

The Polar Pioneer, owned by Transocean, replaces the Shell-owned Kulluk drill ship, which was damaged when it grounded in the Gulf of Alaska on Dec. 31, 2012. Shell determined the Kulluk was too badly damaged to be worth repairing.

Shell’s exploration plan proposes that the Discoverer and Polar Pioneer drill simultaneously in the Chukchi this year, to complete the single well started in 2012 and begin five additional wells.

But like Shell’s entire offshore Arctic program, the company’s plans to use the Port of Seattle as a staging site for its Arctic drilling campaign have been controversial in that city.

A coalition of environmental groups on March 2 filed a lawsuit in Washington state court seeking to overturn the Foss lease of Terminal 5. The lawsuit maintains that the drill-rig plan violates state law and the port’s Shoreline Substantial Development Permit.

Local politicians have weighed in against the plan, including the mayor, who on March 9 ordered an official review paralleling the lawsuit’s arguments about the city permit.

Monday’s finding was the direct result of that review.

Murray, in a statement, said the department conclusion that a new permit is needed for the oil-related vessels gives port managers “an opportunity to pause and rethink this issue.”

“To prevent the full force of climate change, it’s time to turn the page on things like coal trains, oil trains and oil drilling rigs. It’s time to focus on the economy of the future: electric cars and transit, green homes and environmentally progressive businesses,” he said in his statement.

While the requirement for a new permit might not stop the plans for Foss to use the site, Murray said, “I urge the port to consider, is this really the right use of Terminal 5, even for the short term? Does this use reflect the businesses of the future we want in Seattle? This is an opportunity for the port and all of us to make a bold statement about how oil companies contribute to climate change, oil spills and other environmental disasters — and reject this short-term lease.”

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