Oil Check Washington

Full recap from Port of Seattle's Shell hearing: motions passed simply fan the flames

Shell's Polar Explorer in Port Angeles, WA

May 12th - This morning, in the dreary early spring hours, the Port of Seattle got a surprise visit at their doorstep. Annie Lukins, 24, an activist with Seattle Rising Tide, set up a 20ft. tri-pod in front of the Shell fueling station at the Port’s Harbor Island. She spent well over 2 hours blockading the entrance before coming down in front of Seattle Police (no arrests were made).

This begins what will be a long day of Shell related affairs for the Port. Later this afternoon, the port hosted a public hearing on how to address the City’s recent revocation of their lease to host Shell at Terminal 5. The Port's commissioners will vote on two different motions that could decide the fate of the oil giant's presence in Seattle. The Port will decide whether to stand in opposition or step over to the side of its city.

The hearing was packed with potential speakers from all stripes for and against Shell’s lease. Those testifying included the Mayor of Wainwright Alaska, Port union representatives, various local government officials and even a song filled speech by the “ragging grannies”.

Native Alaskan tribal representatives spoke in favor of Shell’s lease, declaring oil the “backbone of their economy” but many Inuit have furiously opposed it. Earlier last year, a lawsuit lead by Earth Justice on behave of “ THE NATIVE VILLAGE OF POINT HOPE; INUPIAT COMMUNITY OF THE ARCTIC SLOPE; ALASKA WILDERNESS LEAGUE; NORTHERN ALASKA ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER; RESISTING ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION ON INDIGENOUS LANDS, A PROJECT OF THE INDIGENOUS ENVIRONMENTAL NETWORK (REDOIL)” and a host of environmental groups pushed to block the Department of the Interior from issuing Shell’s lease in the Chukchi Sea.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, in a prepared statement said, “I now hope Shell will respect the wishes of the Port, the City and the community at large, and not bring an off-shore drilling rig into Elliott Bay.”

Heinz Award Winner and long time Seattle Climate Advocate KC Golden gave a rousing speech, citing the Port’s sustainable vision and how deeply Shell’s plans to create “climate chaos” undermined it.

After hearing testimony for several hours, the commission voted on two different resolutions. The first motion tells Foss Maritime (the company actually working on Shell’s ships) to delay mooring the drilling rigs until further legal review was completed. (you can read the full motion here)

This at first appear to be a move by the Port to distance its self from Shell and take a step towards yesterday's Seattle City Council vote to keep the rigs out of the city.

That was until the second motion. The Port then flipped script and voted to join Foss Maritime in appealing the City’s revocation of their lease, making it clear that they still plan to try and bring the ships to Seattle. (read 2nd motion here)

After hearing the results of both motions, Foss Maritime CEO Paul Stevens made a bizarre statement that his company would work on the rigs regardless. “We are going to proceed. We think the appeal process is going to take a very significant period of time. These rigs and our operation will be in and out of here before there is any conclusion on the appeal process.”

Foss being able to simply ignore both the Port and the City’s declarations seems unlikely but the situation continues to become stranger by the minute.

While this battle continues, two opposing forces gather steam to meet in Elliott Bay. Shell’s Noble Discoverer arrived in the Port of Everett this afternoon, inching its way closer to Seattle. This is the same ship that, during Shell’s 2012 Arctic drill expedition nearly ran aground and received 8 felony convictions from US Coast Guard violations resulting in $12.2 million in fines.

Meanwhile, activists by sea and land prepare to meet Shell’s rigs and make their opposition known. “Kayaktivist” waterborne protests are planned for Saturday the 16th followed by a march on the Port Monday the 18th. Some have even alluded that these protests could be Seattle's next WTO.

With just days left until Shell’s originally scheduled arrival, we still don’t know if the ships will be allowed into the city’s waters. Regardless, it’s gearing up to be a week to remember in the Emerald City.

Nick Abraham - Editor and Lead Contributor Oil Check Northwest

[email protected]

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