Last Thursday, Shell brought its enormous Polar Pioneer drilling rig into Seattle. On Saturday, about 500 kayaking, paddleboarding, canoeing and even solar-powered party rigging protesters surrounded the rig, shouting “Shell No!” or #sHellno. Shell Oil plans to use Seattle as its staging area for drilling operations off the coast of Alaska this summer. Hopefully, Shell can avoid spilling massive amounts of the oil into the Chukchi Sea, but if its drilling attempts of 2012 are any indication, according to Grist.org, we can likely expect a “big, fat mess.”
Shell has moved their rig into town despite the strong objections of Seattle’s mayor, city council and many others. The city’s port commissioners originally OK’d the rig, but then voted last Tuesday to ask them to wait.
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According to Greenpeace, “Shell has stirred up a hornet’s nest.” The lease they negotiated to establish a “home port” in Seattle was under a verbal nondisclosure agreement, allowing its hired guns to lobby hard for approval before anyone understood what the full plans for the port were. Citizens are outraged and the mayor and city council are trying to find their footing in opposition. “These cloak-and-dagger tactics,” writes K.C. Golden in the Seattle Times, “won Shell a lease it never would have been granted in the full light of day.” Hosting the drilling fleet also violates the Port’s shoreline permit, which would have been known had the Port handled the issue openly and in the public eye, rather than under cover.
Mayor Ed Murray said, “I expect the Port to obtain all required city permits before any moorage or work begins at Terminal 5 on Shell’s oil-drilling equipment.” If there was ever any doubt about whether the Port can or should rescind the ill-considered lease, the permit violation should erase it.
Images via Greenpeace USA