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Oil rig on move to Seattle, protesters expected

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Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 08.30.03Heather Graf, KING-TV, SeattleMay 14, 2015

Oil rig on move to Seattle, protesters expected

SEATTLE — A massive offshore drilling rig left Port Angeles, Wash., early Thursday and is expected here later in the day.

The 400-foot long Polar Pioneer began moving out of Port Angeles at about 1:40 a.m. PT. The rig is expected to arrive here around 5 p.m. PT, traveling about 120 miles, the Coast Guard said.

The Polar Pioneer is one of the rigs that Netherlands-based Royal Dutch Shell petroleum plans to use as it moves ahead with plans to use leased space at the Port of Seattle to load drilling rigs and other vessels with supplies and personnel. It is preparing to explore for oil this summer in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast.

“I’m not a fan of drilling in the arctic, or oil drilling or oil spills because I’m a fisherman and I like being in the water,” said owner Craig Undem of Cycle University, where customers can see the Port of Seattle out the window.

The company said it will park two rigs at the Port of Seattle. The city said it needs a new permit to do so and could fine the company if it doesn’t comply.

The moves set up a showdown between environmentalists and oil exploration advocates and touches off a wider debate about climate change and whether the nation should tap oil and gas reserves in the icy, remote Arctic Ocean off Alaska’s coast.

“Should Shell bring the rigs to Terminal 5 before the appropriate permits are in place, Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development will evaluate the situation and could issue a notice of violation,” Jason Kelly, a spokesman for Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, said in email Wednesday.

On Monday the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved its plan to move the rigs. But on Tuesday, Port of Seattle commissioners passed a resolution asking Shell’s host, Foss Maritime, to tell Shell to delay coming here.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 22.39.33“Given the short windows in which we have to work in the Arctic and our shared view that Shell’s lease and the supporting contract with Foss is valid, we have made the decision to utilize Terminal 5 under the terms originally agreed upon by the parties involved — including the Port of Seattle,” Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said in email Tuesday.

About a dozen protesters in kayaks met the 514-foot-long Noble Discoverer as it arrived Tuesday in Everett on its way south to Seattle.

“Drilling for oil in the precious Arctic is not on the right side of history,” said Richard Hodgin, a drilling opponent from Seattle.

Labor groups representing workers at the Port of Seattle noted the 400-plus jobs that the Foss lease has brought to the city already while opponents argued that no resources are available to respond to a major spill in the Chukchi Sea.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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