West Seattle, Washington
(May 4th image courtesy Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce webcam)
4:59 PM: While the oil-drilling platform Polar Pioneer is no longer in view on the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce’s webcam, it’s still in the PA harbor – but apparently not for long. The Peninsula Daily News reports that the Polar Pioneer will be towed to West Seattle’s Terminal 5 tomorrow. That, despite the city Department of Planning and Development declaring that mooring Shell’s rigs at T-5 is not covered in the Port’s existing permits, and despite the Port Commission’s vote yesterday afternoon (WSB coverage here) to formally inform T-5 interim tenant Foss of that. Foss, meantime, as reported here last night, has filed its appeal of the DPD “interpretation”:
The Port Commission, as also noted in our Tuesday report, voted to appeal the ruling of the DPD, whose director Diane Sugimura answered questions at yesterday’s meeting. Meantime, Foss also expects Shell’s drillship Noble Discoverer, now starting its second day docked in Everett, to move on to T-5. And Arctic-drilling opponents are continuing to plan for an on-the-water protest Saturday plus one on land Monday.
6:11 PM UPDATE: Wondering what the city might do if the Shell rigs really do show up despite the DPD interpretation? We sent that question to Mayor Ed Murray‘s office. The reply:
The mayor expects the Port to have the proper permits in place before an off-shore oil drilling rig comes to Terminal 5. The Port Commission is also on record saying a rig should not come to Elliott Bay before the proper permits are in place.
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. There are monetary penalties associated with operating without the necessary permits. … Foss and the Port have said they intend to file an appeal. Even after an appeal is filed, the City is not prevented from moving ahead with enforcement actions.
1:42 AM THURSDAY: We’ve been checking MarineTraffic.com all night and it looks like Polar Pioneer and its accompanying tugs are finally headed out of Port Angeles, as of minutes ago.
(9:44 PM UPDATE: Foss’s appeal document added, after coverage of 75 speakers at Port Commission meeting, followed by commissioners passing both motions – as Shell drillship Noble Discoverer arrived in Everett)
12:58 PM: Just as Seattle port commissioners are about to start their meeting on the controversial Terminal 5 lease to Foss/Shell, we received that photo of one of the Shell offshore-drilling rigs that is expected to wind up here for a while: The Noble Discoverer, which, as we reported earlier, entered Washington waters early today. Jason Mihok photographed the ND (and Foss tugs) as they passed Port Townsend – he was on board the Victoria Clipper. Meantime, we’re at Pier 69 (steps from the Clipper’s HQ, in fact), where the commission chambers are overflowing – we in fact are sitting on the floor in the back of the room. We’ll be chronicling the meeting as it unfolds.
1:05 PM: The meeting has begun. Commissioner Stephanie Bowman is leading it; her co-president Courtney Gregoire is absent “for health reasons.” Bowman urges civility, saying her 70-year-old mom is in the front row so if you’re rude to the commission, you’re rude to her mom. This will start with public comment, and #1 is the one elected official Bowman has mentioned as being here – Alaska State Senator Cathy Giessel, who chairs the Senate’s Resources Committee and “the special committee on the Arctic.” She urges the commission to “stand firm” on the lease with Foss/Shell.
…and the other half of the meeting room. pic.twitter.com/uhvdoXBUME
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) May 12, 2015
#2 – a speaker who says he’s from a faith-based community: “Help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing … It is my hope and prayer that this commission will … find a sustainable path leading to the right side of history.” Drilling in the Arctic “is not on the right side of history,” he continues.
#3 – Anthony Edwardson from Barrow, AK, chair of Arctic Inupiat Offshore, “asking the commission to honor (the lease). … We have partnered with Shell to be sure they do right in our waters.”
#4 – Mohawk, a speaker who urges the commission to “follow the Seattle city laws” in terms of the DPD interpretation that said the drilling vessels’ docking is not allowed under existing port permits.
#5 – Hugh, who also has come from Alaska, “imploring you to understand the far-reaching effects of your decision to our communities on the North Slope.” He too chairs an Alaska Native corporation, he says. “The environmental community doesn’t have a plan for our people. … We are the people of the Arctic – we live it, day by day. They would like to place us in a diorama in a museum.”
#6 – John Hobson from Wainwright, Alaska; he and we believe all of the Alaskan Natives who have spoken so far spoke to the Seattle City Council yesterday as it considered its resolution opposing drilling and asking the Port Commission to reconsider the T-5 lease. “There are people involved who want the same things you have -” like education and sanitation. “We want to impress on you that the Arctic isn’t just a place of polar bears.”
#7 – Stu Yarfitz. He is a Seattle resident who says he has two questions: How will the commission respond if the city DPD issues a stop-work order? And he asks about Terminal 5’s future – why is the modernization work not happening now, when that was the reason it closed last year?
/AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE CONTINUES/ – click ahead if reading this from WSB home page)Read More
Hours after federal approval of Shell‘s Arctic offshore-drilling plan, and hours before the Seattle Port Commission‘s public meeting about the Terminal 5/Foss/Shell lease, one of Shell’s two designated drill rigs entered Washington waters. We reported Sunday night that the drillship Noble Discoverer had done a turnaround off the Washington coast and went out of tracking range; early this morning, it reappeared, and entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It’s still headed for Everett first, Shell told The Seattle Times (WSB partner), also saying the other designated driller, Polar Pioneer, is to be towed this week to T-5 from Port Angeles (where it remains visible on webcam as of this writing). (June 2012 photo of Noble Discoverer by Long Bach Nguyen)
As for the Port Commission’s meeting this afternoon, the agenda details finally have been added. They include two potential motions: The first one comes down to, the port can’t/won’t do anything about the city interpretation disallowing the drill rigs until “if and when this code interpretation is deemed a final decision by the City of Seattle.” (The way the Hearing Examiner process works, that usually takes months.) The second one seeks to have the port appeal the city interpretation too. Today’s meeting is set to start at 1 pm at port HQ at Pier 69 on the downtown waterfront and will start with a public-comment period.
9:04 AM: The Noble Discoverer is just now passing Port Angeles.
(Monday midday image from Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce webcam, republished with permission)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 12:18 PM: In our update last night on the events surrounding the plan for Shell to bring its Arctic-offshore-drilling rigs (including Polar Pioneer, above, still in Port Angeles) to Terminal 5 in West Seattle, we described this as a “pivotal week.” And since that update last night, it’s become even more so: This morning, the federal government issued its approval for Shell’s revised plan to drill six wells in the Chukchi Sea this summer – read the announcement here. This comes just before the City Council is scheduled to vote during its 2 pm meeting today on this resolution expressing opposition to Arctic offshore drilling and asking the Port of Seattle to reconsider its lease with Foss bringing Shell vessels to T-5. (The Port Commission‘s meeting on lease-related issues is at 1 pm tomorrow.) Representing a coalition of anti-drilling groups, Earthjustice has reacted by saying, “The project Interior approved today is bigger, dirtier, and louder than any previous plan, calling for more sound disturbances and harassment of whales and seals, more water and air pollution, and more vessels and helicopters. It also runs the risk of a catastrophic oil spill that could not be cleaned in Arctic waters.”
3:33 PM UPDATE: The City Council passed the aforementioned resolution unanimously. City Councilmember Mike O’Brien said it’s not possible to just abruptly stop using oil, but “a just transition” must be worked on; Councilmember Kshama Sawant, whose amendment to the resolution also won unanimous approval, said that while the jobs created by the drilling-related work are important, the more important issue is that of oil executives’ profits – she accused them of “hoodwinking” people into thinking it’s the environment vs. jobs. And Councilmember Nick Licata said the environment is “changing rapidly” and a resolution like this is a “small step” toward action to try to slow that rate of change. The comment period before their deliberation and vote included Alaskan Natives who had come from areas close to the prospective drilling zone to express their support for Shell.
This week promises to be pivotal in the ongoing controversy over and scrutiny of the plan for two Shell-leased drill rigs to come to the Port of Seattle‘s Terminal 5 in West Seattle before heading to the Arctic Ocean.
One of those rigs, the drillship Noble Discoverer, took an unexpected – at least to observers – turn this weekend.
As noted here Thursday, Noble Discoverer is expected to stop in Everett this week. Foss Maritime has indicated that the city of Seattle’s suggestion that it’s not coming here is inaccurate, so the expectation is that it would then proceed to T-5.
We’ve been checking online vessel tracker MarineTraffic.com relatively often for any signs of the drillship coming into range – it was last “seen” by tracking signal when it was off Honolulu two weeks ago (at which time, it’s since been revealed, it failed a Coast Guard inspection).
Looking at MT very early this morning, we noticed Noble Discoverer had been in tracking range for a while starting Saturday morning, approaching the entrance to the Strait of Juan De Fuca – but then disappeared from tracking. Almost concurrently, we received a note from Robert, pointing to this online observation with a few more specifics, showing that the ship had turned around and gone back out of tracking range. Here’s what MT’s records show:
MT tracking doesn’t pick up until relatively close to the coast, so we don’t know quite where the drillship is now – just that it’s out of range, shown as having been last “seen” at 2:43 am today (our time) sailing away from the Washington coast, about 18 hours after it had become visible while sailing toward it.
Meantime, Shell’s other drill rig, the platform Polar Pioneer, has now spent three weeks in Port Angeles (where this webcam points toward it around the clock); here in Seattle, the Port Commission takes up the T-5 lease/city interpretation situation in public session Tuesday afternoon, and opponents of offshore Arctic drilling plan a series of protests here in (and off) West Seattle starting later in the week, culminating in an early-morning march from Harbor Island to T-5 one week from tomorrow .
(UPDATED 3:33 PM, adding Foss statement on intent to appeal city DPD ‘interpretation’)
(Polar Pioneer in Port Angeles this afternoon; webcam image used with permission of PA Chamber of Commerce)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 12:24 PM: As reported here Thursday, the Port of Seattle Commission plans to discuss in public session on Tuesday what it will do about the city’s declaration that the port has to apply for a new permit to use West Seattle’s Terminal 5 for Shell’s offshore-Arctic-drilling vessels. The commission’s agenda for Tuesday meetings usually is posted by Thursday afternoon but didn’t appear on the port website until a short time ago. The T-5 lease situation is the only item on the 1 pm public agenda:
The city Department of Planning and Development’s “interpretation” of the need for a new permit was announced by the mayor on Monday; it was published on the city website yesterday, and our report also includes an open letter from Foss and local unions to the mayor, contending this action will be damaging to the city’s maritime industry. Meantime, the Polar Pioneer platform remains anchored in Port Angeles; the Noble Discoverer drillship is expected in Everett next week; and two Shell-related vessels, Aiviq and Harvey Champion, are at T-5 right now. And a Shell executive was quoted earlier this week as saying the city ruling wouldn’t impede their Arctic-drilling plan.
ADDED 3:33 PM: Foss Maritime has announced it plans to appeal the DPD interpretation, and that it intends to go ahead with bringing Shell’s oil rigs here during the time it takes to resolve the appeal:
Foss Maritime plans to appeal the city of Seattleâs determination that Fossâs use of the Port of Seattleâs Terminal 5 is not allowed under the Portâs existing use permit.
The appeal process will take months to complete. In the meantime, Foss intends to provide its customer, Royal Dutch Shell, the services for which it contracted over the next few weeks as it prepares for the summer oil exploration season in Alaska.
The cityâs position is not supported by the plain language of the permit at issue, and will cause long-term harm to the maritime industry as a whole. The permit for Terminal 5 allows Port customers to tie up vessels so that goods and cargo can be stored, loaded and unloaded, which is precisely what Foss is doing at Terminal 5.
By taking this action so late in the day, Mayor Ed Murray is trying to stop a lawful project that has already put 417 people to work full-time and will soon employ hundreds more, many of them citizens of Seattle. Worse, he has openly solicited the Port of Seattle to use the cityâs action as a pretext to break a valid lease at Terminal 5, despite the separately elected Port Commissionâs recent unanimous vote to uphold the lease.
These actions are an attempt to prevent one of the cityâs oldest and most prominent companies from performing marine services that it has provided and the Port has welcomed for generations. This action is akin to the mayor ordering Seattle City Light to cut off all electricity to Amazon on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
If his actions simply impacted Foss, that would be bad enough. But it jeopardizes many other business activities across the waterfront, and calls into question the sincerity of the mayorâs previous statements in support of the maritime sector.
For example, under the cityâs initial determination, Alaska fishing trawlers would not be allowed to winter over at the cruise ship docks at Terminals 90 and 91; the Seattle Fire Departmentâs fire boats could not dock at Terminals 90 and 91 as they are currently doing; and the vessels of the U.S. Navy and other navies that visit during Seafair would not be allowed to tie up at Port facilities. Maritime businesses from Ballard to South Park are doubtless nervously checking their permits and wondering whether the mayor will deem them worthy.
Foss believes that the permitting at Terminal 5 is appropriate for our use, and that the cityâs determination is a statement of politics rather than policy. Accordingly, we will challenge it through the appropriate channels. The process looks like this:
* Foss will appeal the determination to the Seattle Hearing Examiner within 14 days. Other interested parties, such as the Port, may join in the appeal.
* The hearing examiner will then set a hearing date on the matter.
* The hearing examiner would typically produce a ruling on the matter within 15 days after the hearing.
* Under normal circumstances, the city would not issue a violation to Foss or the Port of Seattle until and unless it prevailed in the hearing.
(UPDATED 11:52 AM: Added ‘open letter’ to mayor)
ORIGINAL REPORT, 5:48 AM: The latest developments in the Terminal 5/Foss/Shell situation:
INTERPRETATION OFFICIALLY PUBLISHED: Today’s city-circulated Land Use Information Bulletin will include official publication of the city Department of Planning and Development interpretation saying the Port of Seattle needs a new permit before Shell drilling vessels can come to T-5, announced earlier this week (read the interpretation in our Monday report). The notice offers a two-week period for appeals. Will the Port appeal, or apply for a permit, or … ? We’re checking. (Added 7:12 am: Port spokesperson Peter McGraw tells WSB, “The Commission will be taking the matter up in public session next Tuesday.” Agenda out later today.)
DRILLSHIP STATUS: As noted Monday, the interpretation said the drillship Noble Discoverer is not expected to moor at T-5.
(Photo of Noble Discoverer’s April 2012 Seattle arrival by Ilona Berzups)
But it is due in Everett next week, MyEverettNews.com reports. MEN quotes a Port of Everett spokesperson as saying “the Noble Discoverer is scheduled to make a brief stop in Everett next week to load/unload cargo.” And it’s now been revealed that while the ND was in Hawaii late last month, it had to make repairs to “the device that separates oil from the water in its bilges,” VICE News reported on Wednesday, quoting a US Coast Guard spokesperson. That part of the drillship also was implicated in the troubles that led to millions in fines after it left West Seattle and headed to the Arctic in 2012. VICE quotes a Shell spokesperson as saying this new development is nothing more than “mechanical repairs, which from time to time are required on any equipment.”
MAYOR’S DEFENSE: As we reported via Twitter while covering Mayor Murray’s Beacon Hill event announcing the revised transportation levy, he ended by turning to the T-5/Shell controversy. What he said seemed to be a response to the Foss statement on Monday; Murray contended that the city has been and continues to be an ally to the maritime industry and that this one “disagreement” shouldn’t “obscure” that.
ADDED 11:52 AM – OPEN LETTER TO MAYOR: This letter sent to the mayor takes issue with that:
11:46 AM: Just in from the city Department of Planning and Development, that’s the document we’ve been waiting to see, ever since hearing that Mayor Murray told a breakfast meeting this morning that the city would tell the Port of Seattle that new permits would be needed for Shell’s Arctic-drilling vessels to dock at West Seattle’s Terminal 5. We’re reading the document now but note one item of interest early on:
(Monday afternoon image courtesy Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce webcam)
The city says the port indicates only the drilling platform Polar Pioneer would be mooring here, with “two tugboats,” not the drillship Noble Discoverer as well, as had been previously believed.
The interpretation released today is the result of the city investigation announced almost two months ago. (Updated) The mayor has now released this statement:
To prevent the full force of climate change, itâs time to turn the page on things like coal trains, oil trains and oil drilling rigs. Itâs time to focus on the economy of the future: electric cars and transit, green homes and environmentally progressive businesses. I expect the port to obtain all required city permits before any moorage or work begins at T5 on off-shore oil drilling equipment. While requiring a new permit may not stop the portâs plans, it does give the port an opportunity to pause and rethink this issue. I urge the port to consider, is this really the right use of Terminal 5, even for the short term? Does this use reflect the businesses of the future we want in Seattle? This is an opportunity for the port and all of us to make a bold statement about how oil companies contribute to climate change, oil spills and other environmental disasters â and reject this short-term lease.
The port has not yet commented; when we contacted spokesperson Peter McGraw earlier this morning, he replied, “We have not received the interpretation yet. When we do, we will review it and provide a response.”
Meantime, EarthJustice, leading a lawsuit that challenged the Port granting a lease to Foss Maritime for hosting Shell vessels, sent this statement:
Today, Mayor Ed Murray announced that the Seattle Department of Planning and Developmentâs investigation showed the Port of Seattle cannot use Terminal 5 as a homeport for Shellâs Arctic drilling fleet under its current permit. The Port is in violation of its twenty-year-old shoreline permit issued by the City.
On March 2 in King County Superior Court, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, The Sierra Club, Washington Environmental Council, and Seattle Audubon Society. That legal challenge details the Portâs circumvention of public process and violation of the State Environmental Policy Act. The Cityâs decision today is consistent with our argument that Shellâs use of Terminal 5 is a change from the Terminalâs historical use as a cargo terminal and requires environmental review and the issuance of new permits.
âWe applaud the Mayorâs office and the City of Seattle for prioritizing this investigation and reaching a conclusion consistent with the law and the publicâs interest in full participation,â said Earthjustice Managing Attorney Patti Goldman. âWe urge the Port of Seattleâs commissioners to take the Mayorâs invitation to use this opportunity to reevaluate the Portâs priorities and to reject Shellâs use of Seattleâs waters as a homeport for its harmful Arctic drilling operations.â
As we’ve been reporting, Shell’s already had one vessel at Terminal 5, the icecutter Aiviq, which is there right now, (updated) as is another support ship, the Harvey Supporter. The Polar Pioneer has been in Port Angeles for two weeks (with this PA Chamber of Commerce webcam focused on it), being prepared for a tow here. We’ll be adding more as we read the DPD document and as other reaction comes in.
ADDED 1:13 PM: Foss says it’s carrying on, considering this “a dispute between the city and the port”:
Foss Maritime has a lease with the Port of Seattle to operate a portion of Terminal 5. During the negotiation of that lease, Foss had extensive discussions of its planned activities there, including the moorage of the Polar Pioneer and other vessels.
Port management agreed that those activities were allowed under Terminal 5âs existing permit, which was issued by the city in the 1990s, so Foss entered into the lease in good faith.
On Monday morning, Mayor Ed Murray suggested that the activity is not consistent with the permit. This is a dispute between the city and the port. Foss intends to continue work at Terminal 5 under our lease with the Port regardless of the mayorâs comments.
The Mayorâs action also raises grave concerns about his stated commitment to Seattleâs thriving maritime community. By giving a small but vocal group the ability to jeopardize the commercial relationships between our local maritime businesses and the Port of Seattle, the Mayor is casting serious doubt on the future of the cityâs working waterfront.
ADDED 4:58 PM: The mayor has published something of a rebuttal to that last paragraph.
ORIGINAL REPORT, 11:02 PM SUNDAY: Most of the time when we mention a city councilmember’s visit to West Seattle, it’s in connection with a meeting or a walking tour, staples of an elected official’s life. But Councilmember Mike O’Brien came here this morning for something entirely different:
He was among those who participated this morning in the latest round of “kayaktivist” training in advance of the on-water demonstrations planned when Shell‘s Arctic-offshore-drilling rigs get to Terminal 5. The activist coalition that’s organizing them has been leading kayak training with Alki Kayak Tours at Seacrest, roughly twice a week for the past few weeks. Our partners at The Seattle Times covered this morning’s session too, and photographer Ken Lambert went out on the water for this photo he tweeted:
— Ken Lambert (@SeaTimesFotoKen) May 4, 2015
The Times’ story with Ken’s photos is here. O’Brien chairs the council’s Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee, which on Tuesday will consider a resolution that voices opposition to Arctic offshore drilling and urges the Port of Seattle to reconsider the lease with Foss that is bringing the Shell rigs here. The first to arrive in Washington waters, the drilling platform Polar Pioneer, is still in Port Angeles; a Chamber of Commerce webcam there still has it in sight; live image here, and here’s a screengrab from earlier today (used with the PA C of C’s permission):
No date set for its expected tow to Terminal 5; the other drill rig Shell has said it hopes to use in the Arctic Ocean this summer, the drillship Noble Discoverer, left its latest stop, off Honolulu, more than a week ago and is not back in MarineTraffic.com range yet. The only Shell ship to visit Terminal 5 so far, the icecutter Aiviq, is back there now after some time in Port Angeles. As announced in mid-April, the anti-drilling coalition has set May 16-18 for a “festival of resistance” starting with a kayak flotilla.
ADDED 8:42 AM MONDAY: Regional news orgs are reporting that Mayor Murray announced at a breakfast event today that the city has determined new/renewed permit(s) will be needed before Shell’s rigs can come here. We’re working to find out more and will have a separate story soon.
Two updates on the Port of Seattle‘s Terminal 5 in West Seattle:
VEHICLE CARRIER ON THE WAY: The vehicle carrier Ryujin is expected at T-5 tonight (unrelated to the Foss/Shell operations for which a third of T-5 is currently leased.). Port spokesperson Peter McGraw tells WSB, “It will be delivering 2,400 autos that will be stored there for up to a few weeks. There may be other car-carrying vessels over this time frame as well. At some point they will be loaded back on to the vessel and off to their planned destination.” (MarineTraffic.com shows the Ryujin currently near the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. *Tuesday 6:49 am update – It’s just now passing Port Angeles.*)
SECURITY CONTRACT FOR T-5: One of the items on the agenda for tomorrow’s Port Commission meeting at Sea-Tac Airport is authorization for up to $3 million to be spent for T-5 security over the next 5 years. Here’s the agenda document:
The memo says security used to be the responsibility of whomever was leasing the terminal; since the lease expired last summer, the port has contracted with security guards, which cost almost $100,000 in the last three months of last year. They’ve already sent this proposal out to bid, with a contract to be awarded later this week, and expecting it will cost $400,000 to $600,000 a year. The memo also says the current “interim tenant” – which would be Foss – is picking up 25 percent of the security costs. The commission meeting is at 1 pm in the airport’s conference center and also is streamed live online.
(Saturday photo by Chuck Jacobs)
Six days after arriving in Port Angeles, the drilling platform Polar Pioneer is still there, being prepared for its tow to West Seattle’s Terminal 5. The Peninsula Daily News reports that it’s an economic boom to PA – both from the workers that are getting it ready for the trip, and from tourists who have come to gawk at it. It’s expected to start heading this way by early May. When it gets here – it’ll be a gawk magnet even here in the big city. Remember the SBX floating radar platform that was here in 2011?
(WSB photo, August 2011)
Polar Pioneer is 25 percent taller – 355 feet, compared to the SBX’s 280. Pending the Polar Pioneer’s arrival, the icebreaker Aiviq remains the lone Shell-related vessel at Terminal 5; the other drilling vessel, Noble Discoverer (derrick height 170′), is still crossing the North Pacific, headed this way.
Meantime, Arctic drilling opponents are still preparing for rallies here, even before the Shell drill rigs get here. The “Shell No” coalition sent this photo of banner-waving on the foot/bike bridge over the Fauntleroy approach to the bridge this past Monday evening:
They’re planning to rally at Myrtle Edwards Park at 2 pm this Sunday in addition to already-announced mid-May actions – that’s the rally announced during the “encouragement march” in West Seattle earlier this month. A kayak flotilla is also planned for May 16th, with ongoing training at Alki Kayak Tours in West Seattle – a session at 5 pm tonight is for would-be trainers.
And the Port of Seattle already has a webpage linking to its reminders and background about the T-5 situation, pending the start of protests and arrival of more vessels, including a link to the Coast Guard’s announcement of “safety zones” and a “voluntary free-speech zone.”
With the platform and vessel that Shell hopes to use for Arctic drilling getting closer to Western Washington waters, opponents of their expected stay at Terminal 5 have announced a schedule for protests, while the U.S. Coast Guard has announced “temporary safety zones” as well as a “voluntary First Amendment zone” worked out with potential waterborne protesters.
First, here’s where it all stands:
Two months have passed since the Port of Seattle announced it had signed a lease with Foss for a third of the idle-since-last-summer Terminal 5 expanse in West Seattle, with Foss expecting to host Royal Dutch Shell offshore-drilling equipment that would eventually head to the Arctic if Shell gets final federal approval.
Since then, as reported here and elsewhere, there have been protests, legal action, and preparation, and more in the works.
WHAT’S HAPPENING AT TERMINAL 5 NOW: Foss and the port have said preparatory work is already under way.
WHERE ARE SHELL’S DRILL RIGS? The Polar Pioneer, crossing the Pacific on the deck-cargo ship Blue Marlin, is expected in Port Angeles on Friday, with a two-week stay there before moving on to Seattle, reports The Peninsula Daily News. The Greenpeace activists who climbed onto it and camped out for five-plus days came down last Saturday, citing stormy weather; a federal judge in Alaska later granted Shell’s request for a court order against them. Their boat the Greenpeace Esperanza is still tailing the Polar Pioneer/Blue Marlin as far as we know.
The Noble Discoverer, the drilling vessel that was here in 2012 before it (along with the now-scrapped Kulluk) got into trouble in Alaska, is still crossing the Pacific too.
(2012 photo by Long B. Nguyen)
It stopped a week ago in the Marshall Islands port of Majuro, and then was reported to be Hawai’i-bound. Majuro to Honolulu is 2,300 miles; then it’s another 2,600 miles to get here.
OTHER SHELL VESSELS: The Coast Guard’s announcement today mentions the Aiviq:
That’s a photo we took while the Aiviq was here with other Shell-related vessels in 2012 (MarineTraffic.com shows it currently moored in Everett).
PORT COMMISSION: Its public meeting yesterday afternoon at Pier 69 was the first in three meetings that did not include dozens of speakers on the subject of the Terminal 5 lease. Four people did speak, all voicing opposition to the lease and concern about Arctic drilling and climate change. The bulk of the comment period was spent on other Port of Seattle business, primarily plans for a new international-arrivals facility.
COAST GUARD ANNOUNCEMENT: From the full announcement published today, which you can read here:
… A 500-yard safety zone [above] will be in place around the Noble Discoverer, Blue Marlin, Polar Pioneer, Aiviq and other Arctic drilling related vessels while underway. A 100-yard safety zone will be in place around the same vessels while moored or anchored. …
…The Voluntary First Amendment Area [above] is a regulated navigation area in Elliott Bay, developed following discussions with several special interest groups, where the Coast Guard recommends, but does not require, those desiring to express their views on Arctic drilling assemble. It is a no wake area where individuals can congregate without compromising their personal safety or jeopardizing the safe navigation of maritime traffic around them. …
As you can see from the map, that zone will be off the West Seattle shoreline north of T-5. As for when it might be used …
‘RESISTANCE’ PLANNED FOR MAY 16-18: In addition to the already-announced downtown waterfront rally on April 26th, opponents have announced “three days of creative, people-powered resistance to Shell and the climate crisis” for May 16th through 18th, including a kayak flotilla on the first day. Their plan detailed on this website vows to “transform … Terminal 5 and Harbor Island into a festival of resistance that will nonviolently block Shellâs preparations for Arctic drilling.”
Gathering at the 5 ways corner – where rally will happen. Just west of low bridge. pic.twitter.com/FPb3jo0HNn
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) April 5, 2015
3:23 PM: This rally was just the start, promised speakers at the rally that wrapped up today’s “Port Encouragement March” about an hour ago, with more than 50 people walking from Walk-All-Ways in The Junction to the 5-way intersection by Terminal 5, west of the low bridge, in hopes of “encouraging” the Port of Seattle to cancel the T-5 interim lease that will bring Shell Arctic-drilling equipment here.
The march was peaceful and relatively low-key – several speakers and a song at the end; walking along from The Triangle to the end of the route, we noted lots of sign waving along the way, some horn-honking from passing motorists, one bicyclist telling the marchers “thank you.”
Seattle Police officers on bicycles accompanied the march, which stayed on sidewalks/trails throughout.
ADDED 4:37 PM: Here’s how it unfolded: Participants gathered at Walk All Ways in The Junction, including the Raging Grannies:
Today’s march segued from a standing monthly rally to encourage people to take action against climate. Marchers headed east on Alaska – along the way, American Legion Post 160 in The Triangle offered a “hydration station”:
Staying on sidewalks and trails along the way, the group headed down 35th to Avalon:
On Avalon, the police bicycle escorts blocked traffic at the Genesee stoplight for an extra few moments so everyone could cross safely:
Port in view now. TV cams shooting marchers along Avalon. Spotted police lt. in unmarked car. pic.twitter.com/3qt3CISB4e
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) April 5, 2015
Turning onto the Alki Trail under/alongside the west end of the West Seattle Bridge, the marchers were urged to stay single-file so bicyclists could get past them. Those with signs held them high to catch the eyes of drivers heading westbound on Spokane:
Rather than going all the way to the gates of Terminal 5, the group stopped by the 5-way intersection west of the low bridge and listened to a few short speeches before the rally ended.
Organizer Stu Hennessey, a longtime West Seattle community advocate, said he felt “betrayed” by the Port’s decision:
Speaking second, Zarna Joshi of Rising Tide, who said there is more at stake than people realize:
She criticized Port Commissioner Tom Albro for telling her he wouldn’t take action to try to cancel the lease, even though he personally opposes Arctic drilling. (At the last Port Commission, as we reported in as-it-happened coverage, both Albro and Courtney Gregoire, the other anti-drilling commissioner, had said they won’t take action to try to cancel it.) Organizers of today’s march included the Green Party of Seattle and Greenpeace, which also provided a speaker:
She said another rally is being planned for April 26th, after the expected arrival of Shell equipment including the drilling platform Polar Pioneer, now in the North Pacific and being trailed by a Greenpeace boat. No counter-protesters showed up today, but supporters of the 2-year lease for Foss to use a third of T-5 say it will provide hundreds of jobs and that it’s better to have a company like Foss, which has a good environmental record, handling this work, than someone else.
1:16 PM: We’re back at the Sea-Tac Airport Conference Center for the Port of Seattle Commission‘s regular meeting. Nothing regular about the meetings lately, as the public-comment period two weeks ago ran more than 3 hours, with almost 80 people commenting about the port’s controversial lease with Foss to host part of Shell‘s Arctic-drilling fleet on part of West Seattle’s Terminal 5. The gallery is full again today – more regional media has shown up than two weeks ago, too – and we will chronicle as it goes.
Public testimony is first on the agenda. #1 – A representative of the Building and Construction Trades says they support the lease because of the jobs it will provide and “the dreams of the future. … We would hope the port follows through with this lease so we can build for the future …” #2, Jordan Royer, representing the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, terminal operators and shipping lines. “This is important because it allows you to reinvest into the terminal, to be competitive on the world stage. … We lose the port, we lose manufacturing … My biggest concern is that if for some reason political winds take your eye off the ball and your core business, that it will be difficult to get other maritime businesses to look at this port as competitive.” #3, Emily Johnston from 350.org, refers to the taped comments by Commissioner Bill Bryant published by The Stranger: “‘You silly people,’ leave these decisions to the grownups – that is in effect what (supporters) are saying. … (But) the so-called grownups have failed us … Scientists have told us this is a catastrophic project and the regulatory bodies have failed to step in.” She mentions that the Obama Administration is likely to give permission for Arctic drilling, maybe even today. She says the lease is “supporting catastrophic climate change … You are all addicts, and this is your intervention. … All lives are on the line.” First applause of the meeting. #4, Cameron Williams, with ILWU Local 19, saying he represents about 3,000 dock workers. “I commend the commission for (moving forward with) the lease.”
#5, Paul Stevens, president/CEO of Foss, thanking the commissioners. He notes that 164 are “working to support our project at T-5,” including “101 at the facility,” a dozen of them Foss employees. “We have contributed $3 million in revenue to the port since signing the lease.” He mentions that they expect to bring non-Shell projects in, as well. And he says maritime competition is tough and faced by this area – and that the competitiveness is enhanced if there’s certainty that political pressure won’t affect deals. #6, a man identifying himself as an Edmonds resident. He says opposition to this and to drilling is “alarmism.” #7, Beth Smith of Foss says having local oversight of this project will make a difference. #8, a woman wearing a red T-shirt reading “The People vs. Shell.” She says Greenpeace has a ship in the Pacific “keeping an eye on Shell’s massive drilling ships as they head north” and promises to “shine a light on one of the most dangerous drilling projects in the world.” #9, Zarna, in the same T-shirt, saying she’s with the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy. She acknowledges that jobs matter, but “Shell and oil workers around the country are striking, and have been striking for 2 months, for health and safety reasons.” She says she has spoken to workers in Anacortes who told her about deaths on the job. “When you say this is about jobs, it’s not true – it’s about money” and says Commissioner John Creighton received campaign contributions from executives of Foss and its parent company Saltchuk. “How much money will it cost to buy you back?” she yells, and presents the commission with a symbolic “blank check.”
#10, another man in the same T-shirt. He says he apologizes to his brothers and sisters in labor, “but jobs go up and down, and particularly with wise leaders, we can increase jobs with good jobs, quality jobs, but the climate is on a descent straight down.” He says Commissioner Bryant’s remarks included ridiculing his kayak, and says he’s sorry that commissioners no longer seemed to be supporting the reasons he voted for them. “I have only a few more years to live. It’s not about me … (future generations) are going to live with (the results of this). We have a blessing here, and we’re destroying it for money – Shell profit. I like Foss, Foss has been around a long time, has done a good job, but Foss has sold their name to Shell.”
AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE CONTINUES AFTER THE JUMP:
Back on Friday, thanks to a tip, we reported on the looming deadline for telling the Port of Seattle what you think about a Terminal 5 issue that’s not directly related to the Shell drilling-fleet controversy: The fact the port has declared the long-term modernization project will be environmentally non-signficant and therefore doesn’t require an environmental-impact study. Some West Seattleites disagree and are sending in their comments by today’s deadline, including a letter that we’re told represents more than two dozen residents in East Admiral, just upslope from T-5. One of their points:
The road traffic resulting from simultaneously unloading two post-Panamax ships will cripple the already congested West Seattle bridges. We do not have an answer to this, nor does the Port. Therefore, we recommend an environmental impact study be done to understand the traffic solutions before reaching the point of no return.
They also suggest the port is gambling a quarter-billion dollars or so on this without knowing whether the market might change irreversibly in the few years T-5 will be closed. Here is their full letter:
They’re also sending it to city and county leaders and asking for their support. As explained in our Friday report, the documents about the “non-significance” decision are here, and comments can be sent to SEPA.email@example.com.
1:02 PM: King County Superior Court Judge Mariane Spearman has ruled that the environmental-coalition lawsuit challenging the Port of Seattle‘s interim lease for Terminal 5 can proceed, one week after hearing arguments on a motion in the case. We’re still reading the ruling, but for starters, here’s what the coalition says in a news release this afternoon:
Seattle-area groups are challenging the Port of Seattleâs lack of public process and failure to assess the environmental repercussions of becoming Shellâs Arctic drilling homeport.
On March 2, 2015, the environmental groups pushed for swift review of their legal challenge in King County Superior Court.
Today Judge Mariane Spearman ruled that the case can be heard and directed the parties to negotiate the record for her review. The coalition is asking that the court vacate the Port of Seattleâs lease based on violations of the State Environmental Policy Act and the Shoreline Management Act. The Earthjustice lawsuit explains that the Port violated its long-range sustainability plans and its shoreline permit, which designate Terminal 5 as a cargo terminal and not a homeport for a drilling fleet. Both Shell and the Port were not forthcoming in specifying when the oil giantâs drilling fleet is expected to arrive in Seattleâs waters.
IN RELATED NEWS: A new public records release shows an intensive industry and labor lobbying effort to urge the Port of Seattle to enter into the lease. The Port lease was made known to industry long before any public disclosure. See document here.
The first public disclosure of the lease was in the agenda released days before the January 13th Port Commission meeting at which it was first publicly discussed and at which three of five commissioners affirmed letting staff proceed with it. On February 11th, in a letter to the environmental coalition, Port CEO Ted Fick announced he had signed the lease on February 9th. At the commission’s March 10th meeting, the open-public-comment period spanned more than three hours, with most of the speakers expressing opposition to the lease (WSB as-it-happened coverage here). The commission’s next meeting is next Tuesday (March 24th), with a semi-related item on the agenda.
ADDED 1:21 PM: We’ve just read the ruling. Among key points related to what was argued in court last Friday, Judge Spearman says the “Washington State Constitution recognizes the right to seek discretionary review of an administrative agency decision under the court’s inherent constitutional power” – so the decision to enter into the lease without a separate environmental review is in her jurisdiction. While the port contends that Foss hosting vessels from the Shell Arctic-drilling fleet would not be a change from the long-permitted use of Terminal 5 as a “cargo terminal,” the judge noted the coalition’s quoting of “Vessel Berth Moorage and Provisioning” in the port briefing memo for the aforementioned January 13th commission meeting, and wrote in today’s ruling, “These activities appear to be qualitatively different than Eagle Marine Servicesâ previous use of Terminal 5 as a marine container terminal.” (That was the terminal’s tenant before T-5 was shut down last summer in anticipation of the modernization project.) So the judge has granted the coalition’s request for a “writ of review” – a type of legal procedure explained here.
ADDED 4:36 PM: We’ve received comments from the Port and from Foss. First, from the Port via spokesperson Peter McGraw:
The ruling today is only a preliminary step in this matter. The judge’s ruling does not prevent Foss Maritime from continuing to use the terminal as described in the lease. Nor does it conclude that the port or Foss have failed to comply with any law. It does direct the parties to prepare a record so that the court can review the port’s compliance with SEPA. We look forward to providing this information to the court. The port continues to be committed to fully comply with any and all requirements and regulations.
And from Foss via spokesperson Paul Queary:
We are confident that our use of Terminal 5 will be in compliance with its current permit, and we will show that in court.
According to Foss, 101 people are currently working “on various jobs” at T-5, and 63 more are doing related work at Vigor Shipyard. (We noted the latter in our coverage of last week’s Port Commission hearing.)
(From Port presentation last year regarding T-5 modernization)
While the Port of Seattle‘s interim lease for West Seattle’s Terminal 5 has been in the spotlight lately, a comment period quietly opened for your chance to have a say on a decision related to its future beyond that or any interim use. A nearby neighbor flagged us on this, wanting to make sure you know before it’s too late to comment.
Here’s what’s happening:
The Port says it has decided that its modernization plan for Terminal 5 (first covered here last June) does not need an environmental-impact statement, and for those who have something to say about that, it’s accepting comments until 4 pm Monday (March 23rd). Read the Determination of Non-Significance notice that neighbors received, here or below:
This 42-page Port document, the State Environmental Policy Act “checklist,” explains why they don’t believe a full environmental review is needed. It also says the work is expected to start early next year.
Some neighbors say they plan to comment about expected impacts including increased carbon emissions and noise, especially the long-running issue of train noise, which they expect will increase as “more trains will be needed to offload the super-container ships.”
As noted in the document embedded above, you can comment by e-mailing SEPA.firstname.lastname@example.org by the Monday afternoon deadline – but be sure to include a postal-mail address. Again, this is separate from and not related to the “interim lease” for part of T-5, except that some of this work – which could cost up to a quarter-billion dollars, the port says – would overlap with that lease, which covers a third of T-5.
Quick FYI in case you had blocked out the date for the Port of Seattle‘s free “West Seattle Working Waterfront” boat tour next month, promoted by port reps at several community-council meetings recently and mentioned in our subsequent reports: We got word today that it’s been postponed. Port events manager Mary Jean Stephens says it’s been rescheduled for the morning of September 19th; registration information will recirculate during the summer.