(June 2015 WSB photo)
8:50 AM: Three and a half months after its Polar Pioneer rig left West Seattle, Arctic-bound, Shell announced overnight that it will “cease further exploration activity in offshore Alaska for the foreseeable future.” Shell said it “safely drilled (an exploration) well to a total depth of 6800 feet” and found “indications of oil and gas,” but not enough to justify continuing, so the “well will be sealed and abandoned.”
In addition to the controversy over Arctic drilling itself, Shell’s local presence still had some unresolved issues, including a pending city Hearing Examiner decision on the appeal of last May’s Department of Planning and Development “interpretation” saying more permits were needed for its use of Terminal 5 as part of Foss Maritime‘s lease. After multiple days of testimony over the summer, documents are still being filed in the case.
But the immediate question is whether any of Shell’s fleet will be headed back this way; besides the Polar Pioneer, several Shell support vessels used T-5 before heading north to the Arctic Ocean.
(May 2015 photo by Paul Weatherman: Shell’s Aiviq and Polar Pioneer @ T-5)
We talked this morning with Foss spokesperson Paul Queary. He says the company is “obviously disappointed” about Shell’s decision to abandon the offshore Arctic, but they don’t know yet what the oil company will do “regarding the vessels coming back to T-5.” Queary says there are still some loose ends at the very least, including items “to be picked up” and cargo to be offloaded. Shell or no Shell, he says, Foss still has a lease with the Port of Seattle and is “seeking other opportunities” for utilizing the space.
We’ll be following up on other aspects of the Shell announcement and will add to this story as the day goes on.
11:38 AM: Earthjustice, which went to court to try to stop the lease the port signed in February, sent a statement: “Shell’s departure from the Arctic Ocean removes for now a major threat to the region’s wildlife, already suffering from climate change more rapid than anywhere on earth. Arctic Ocean oil drilling is a thing of the past. The world cannot afford to burn the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves, let alone to search for unknown oil in Arctic Ocean, risking an irreplaceable region and wildlife in the process. President Obama now has an opportunity to build on his climate legacy and end Arctic Ocean drilling for good. It’s time to invest in the future of clean renewable energy and a sustainable climate for future generations.”
12:04 PM: A statement from Mayor Murray: ““I am pleased that Shell has ceased their Arctic drilling operations. The people of Seattle stood up to oppose the use of our city as a base for expanded Arctic drilling. With today’s announcement, it is time to move forward. I am committed to working with the Port and our critical maritime industry to build a clean economy of the future that provides high-paying maritime jobs and preserves our environment.”
1:26 PM: And from County Executive Dow Constantine: “While we should all be relieved that Shell Oil decided not to drill in the Arctic, this will not be the last proposal to drill for fossil fuels in that region, posing both local and global environmental risks. Let’s seize this opportunity to make King County a hub for clean-technology development and take the lead in creating a sustainable 21st-century economy.”