Shell: Drill rigs coming to Seattle despite pleas for delay

  • By GENE JOHNSON and PHUONG LE
  • Wednesday, May 13, 2015 10:16pm
  • News

SEATTLE — Royal Dutch Shell is forging ahead with plans to park two Arctic oil drilling rigs in Seattle, despite the city saying it could issue fines in the case and port commissioners asking Shell to wait.

Shell’s plan to move the two rigs to Seattle in coming days sets 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.

A Shell spokesman said Tuesday it has a valid lease to use about 50 acres of terminal space on Seattle’s waterfront and a tight timeline to prepare its fleet for exploratory oil drilling this summer in the Chukchi Sea northwest of Alaska, so it is sticking to plans to park its drilling fleet on Seattle’s waterfront.

“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,” said Jason Kelly, a spokesman for Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said in an email Wednesday.

A city planning spokesman says the city could issue a notice of violation to the Port of Seattle and Foss Maritime, whose client is Shell, requiring compliance by a certain timeframe. The city could then fine those entities $150 a day for 10 days and then $500 a day afterward.

Murray last week said the Port of Seattle, a public agency, needs a new permit before it can moor in Seattle. And Port of Seattle commissioners Tuesday night passed a resolution ask Shell’s host, Foss Maritime, to tell Shell to delay coming here. The resolution says they want the delay to allow for further legal review of the city’s interpretation of a new permit.

At the same time, port commissioners voted unanimously to appeal that city interpretation, which Foss Maritime has already done. The city has said the terminal can’t be used as a base for drill rigs because the port’s land-use permit is for cargo operations.

Shell cleared a major hurdle Monday when the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved its plan, though Shell still must get other permits.

About a dozen protesters in kayaks met one of two drill rigs Shell plans to use, the 514-foot-long Noble Discoverer, as it arrived Tuesday evening in Everett on its way south to Seattle. The second, the 400-foot-long Polar Pioneer, has been parked at an Olympic Peninsula port but is expected to arrive in Seattle later this week to larger protests.

A Shell spokesman said the company understands the request for more time but its plans have not changed.

“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 an email Tuesday. “Rig movement will commence in the days to come.”

Foss also was adamant. Company President Paul Stevens said the port commission knew what activities would be occurring at the terminal when it granted the lease.

Activists who don’t want Shell to drill for oil in the Arctic turned out at the nearly five-hour commission meeting.

The meeting drew a range of voices, including several people who traveled from Alaska. Representatives of Alaska Native corporations argued that the environmentalists opposing the drilling don’t understand the economic needs of Alaska’s Natives.

John Hopson, mayor of Wainwright, Alaska, a community of Inupiat whalers, said he traveled two days to speak for his allotted two minutes.

“The Arctic isn’t just a place of polar bears,” he said. “It’s a home, my home.”

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

More in News

In this Sept. 21, 2017, file photo, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin speaks at a rally in Montgomery, Ala. Palin is on the verge of making new headlines in a legal battle with The New York Times. A defamation lawsuit against the Times, brought by the brash former Alaska governor in 2017, is set to go to trial starting Monday, Jan. 24, 2022 in federal court in Manhattan. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
Palin COVID-19 tests delay libel trial against NY Times

Palin claims the Times damaged her reputation with an opinion piece penned by its editorial board

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID-19 at all-time high statewide

The state reported 5,759 new cases sequenced from Jan. 21-23

Volunteers serve food during Project Homeless Connect on Jan. 25, 2018, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file)
Project Homeless Connect to provide services, support on Wednesday

The event will be held at the Soldotna Sports Complex on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Schools aim for business as usual as cases reach new highs

On Monday, there were 14 staff members and 69 students self-isolating with the virus

Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Triumvirate construction on hold as theater seeks additional funding

The new theater is projected to cost around $4.7 million.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
KPBSD schools to start 2 hours late Tuesday

Due to weather, all but 4 schools will be delayed

Data from the state of Alaska show a steep increase in COVID-19 cases in January 2022. (Department of Health and Social Services)
Omicron drives COVID spike in Alaska as officials point to decreasing cases in eastern US

On Friday, the seven-day average number of daily cases skyrocketed to 2,234.6 per 100,000 people

Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire
Dan Blanchard, CEO of UnCruise Adventures, stands in front of a ship on May 14, 2021.
Smooth sailing for the 2022 season?

Cautious optimism reigns, but operators say it’s too early to tell.

Former Alaska Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Bakalar speaks a news conference on Jan. 10, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska, after she sued the state. A federal judge on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, ruled that Bakalar was wrongfully terminated by the then-new administration of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy for violating her freedom of speech rights. (AP File Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)
Judge sides with attorney who alleged wrongful firing

Alaska judge says the firing violated free speech and associational rights under the U.S. and state constitutions.

Most Read