(WSB photo from February, looking at Terminal 5 from east Admiral)
Two developments today in the ongoing controversy over the Port of Seattle signing a lease for Foss Maritime to use a third of closed-for-modernization Terminal 5 in West Seattle to host Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet:
*MAYOR, CITY COUNCIL JUMP IN: The Department of Planning and Development is now under orders to review the plan to see if it complies with existing permits, as the port contends. This started with Councilmember Mike O’Brien drafting a letter and ask council colleagues this morning to sign on; by early afternoon, it morphed into this announcement:
Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council announced today that Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) will review, investigate and determine whether the plans at Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 to host Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling fleet are allowed under the current Shoreline Substantial Development Permit granted to Terminal 5.
Reports indicate that Shell Oil would moor vessels that are returning from drilling in the Arctic. In the past, Shell’s drilling fleet has needed extensive repairs, maintenance and conversions after returning from a season of drilling. These activities may substantially change Terminal 5’s use and require new, different permits than the one currently granted by DPD which could require additional environmental review if the Port wishes to move forward with the lease.
“Any project of this apparent significance to our industrial lands must go through the appropriate review. It’s important that the public and surrounding businesses are informed of all the possible impacts of this lease – both economic and environmental – and that these impacts are sufficiently disclosed and evaluated,” Murray said. “This is why I’m directing DPD to conduct a thorough review of the Terminal 5 proposal and determine if the anticipated activities at the terminal involving the Shell drilling fleet require new permits before it can proceed.”
“I have grave concerns about Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling fleet coming to Puget Sound in a damaged state, discharging oil and other toxic pollutants along our shorelines during transport and repair, jeopardizing the local ecosystem and undoing decades of work to clean up the Sound,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “Shell’s track record with the Noble Discoverer in the Arctic includes eight felony offenses relating to environmental and maritime crimes, such as discharging oil-contaminated water directly overboard, which is simply unacceptable.”
“For years the Port and the City have worked together to develop rational solutions and develop alternative treatment technologies to reduce pollution in the Duwamish and Elliott Bay,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. “While the immediate value of a lease to repair Arctic drilling equipment may appear to be high, we believe this agreement is shortsighted and ignores the long-term costs to our economy and environment.”
The current permit, called a Shoreline Substantial Development Permit, designated Terminal 5 as a “cargo terminal” – usually meaning goods are stored and ultimately transferred from this terminal to other carriers or locations. But if the Arctic drilling fleet is actually being moored and repaired at Terminal 5, there could be significant and adverse impacts on the surrounding environment. As part of DPD’s investigation and fact-finding, the Department will begin working with the Port of Seattle to clarify all of the activities anticipated at Terminal 5, including, but not limited to, the types of vessels to be moored and the maintenance and repairs to be conducted.
*PORT COMMISSION MEETING TOMORROW: A spokesperson for the environmental coalition that filed a lawsuit last week to try to get the lease canceled says they’re expecting a big turnout at tomorrow’s Port Commission meeting. As they did at the February 24th commission meeting, they plan to again ask commissioners to cancel the lease. As quoted here last week, a port spokesperson said they believe they’ve complied with the environmental and permit regulations. The lease is not officially on the agenda for tomorrow’s commission meeting (1 pm, Sea-Tac Airport conference room), but an open-public-comment period is.