Arctic-drilling fleet at West Seattle’s Terminal 5? Mayor/council ask DPD to review; opponents promise bigger turnout at Port Commission meeting tomorrow

(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.

25 Replies to "Arctic-drilling fleet at West Seattle's Terminal 5? Mayor/council ask DPD to review; opponents promise bigger turnout at Port Commission meeting tomorrow"

  • Mark March 9, 2015 (2:54 pm)

    The City and Port of San Francisco also had leaders that put their political correctness views ahead of a healthy and vibrant port 20 years ago. They killed their Port and now its condos and a professional baseball field.

  • Mrs. Shaw March 9, 2015 (4:08 pm)

    Question for Mark – The Port of Oakland had nothing to do with it?

  • Jeannie March 9, 2015 (4:20 pm)

    This will NOT kill our port. This ill-advised decision is a victory for Big Oil polluters, who have no consideration for environmental impacts.

  • bob March 9, 2015 (4:35 pm)

    I oppose the decision to allow the Shell rig here.

  • Wilson March 9, 2015 (4:42 pm)

    This is a textbook example of privatizing the profits (Shell, who pays no federal taxes, reaps billions in revenue) while socializing the costs (whoever gets saddled with this floating environmental catastrophe will have to mitigate all the horrendous damage it does for decades to come.)

  • Jeff March 9, 2015 (4:53 pm)

    Each and every one of us are oil polluters in one way, shape, or form.

    Y’all need to get over yourselves.

  • wscommuter March 9, 2015 (4:59 pm)

    @Wilson This is a textbook example pointless idealism costing real good wage jobs to our neighbors. Stopping the Shell vessels from coming here won’t stop arctic drilling. But it will guarantee that those jobs go somewhere else. So what, precisely, would you have accomplished if the T5 plan is abandoned by the Port?
    It would also help is you toned down the “sky is falling” hysteria. “Floating environmental catastrophe”? Really? Please provide facts to back that up about what catastrophe is about to befall the Duwamish waterway (and spare me the generic bromides about oil companies = evil; I get it)

  • Mark March 9, 2015 (5:02 pm)

    Answer for Mrs. Shaw – Absolutely. Thats the whole point. Same way Port of Tacoma will, I mean is…

  • HungryKids March 9, 2015 (5:07 pm)

    There are no repair facilities at Terminal 5, so it would require substantial construction/modification to the site before anyone could do more than moor, load and unload vessels there. All that you will find there now are a flat asphalt lot, a length of side moor pier and some cargo cranes. How can anyone who has seen the site really believe there could be any ship repair there? That requires entirely different facilities.
    If you want to see what those look like, you don’t need to go far. Directly across the waterway from terminal 5, there is currently a very active shipyard in which a range of vessels are repaired, including some of the Washington State Ferries. If the concern were truly about a risk of pollution to the Duwamish and the Sound, wouldn’t we be raising a hue and cry about that operation? To me, this looks more like opposition to Arctic drilling being put forth under the thinly veiled guise of a hypothetical local concern.
    DPD should keep an eye out for any significant construction on the Terminal 5 site but, unless that starts to happen, it shouldn’t take them long to determine that the proposed operation there is indeed not any different from having cargo ships loading and unloading there. Remember a few years back when one of those nearly listed over and risked dropping cargo containers in the drink?

  • m March 9, 2015 (5:27 pm)

    So says everyone “I hate jobs”

  • ltfd March 9, 2015 (7:13 pm)

    Thanks “HungryKids”- good comment.

  • Mark March 9, 2015 (8:01 pm)

    Funny. One bemoans hysteria whilst simultaneously taking any opportunity for jobs. It’s just a different hysteria. Applause for those asking for due process and the BEST use of assets.

  • gus March 9, 2015 (9:00 pm)

    Wow, those must be the only jobs left! :^)

  • MSW March 9, 2015 (9:44 pm)

    Yup, let’s just lose more port business to the Port of Tacoma. They will be happy to take the oil related jobs and let the smug and politically correct Seattle feel good about themselves for saving the world from the evils of oil.

  • wb March 9, 2015 (9:59 pm)

    Just wait for the next oil catastrophe–Exxon Valdez so very dim? Check out the post spill Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward sometime–it’s a real eye opener.

    Then there Shell’s abysmal track record, including the 2012 attempt. They can’t handle the arctic and Seattle port shouldn’t aid and abet.

    In other words, don’t sleep with the wolf.

    –ex Alaskan

  • KBear March 9, 2015 (10:16 pm)

    So we need to trash the environment because if we don’t do it some other port will? Excellent logic.

  • John L March 9, 2015 (11:55 pm)

    Well now the Mayor & his city cronies are getting into the act. Putting their personal views ahead of an acceptable, fiscally positive move by Foss/Shell to “store/moor” vessels at T-5. What else do you do with a dock? You moor vessels there. City officials are supposed to represent the citizens not use their position to move their own personal agendas.

  • dsa March 10, 2015 (12:04 am)

    Get out of the way protesters and let the port earn us some money instead of having them raising taxes. This revenue will be collected in Tacoma or points north if we let it slip by.

  • Marsha March 10, 2015 (12:08 am)

    T-5: Race Track!

    Let’s do it!

  • T Rex March 10, 2015 (8:14 am)

    I laugh when I see people mention a racetrack on this property.

    Does anyone really think that all those people who live on the Admiral bluff and Alki would tolerate such noise from any kind of racetrack? Those properties are worth big bucks and the people who live there, rightfully so, have big bucks. Never gonna happen.

    Shell is moving in no matter what, the city has to do something to make up for the revenue that it is losing. I say it is fine until they can get the big cranes in for the larger ships. We are a major west coast port and we need to stay that way.

  • furor scribendi March 10, 2015 (9:07 am)

    Both sides have valid points. Port of Seattle has done due diligence and found a rent-paying tenant who will be held to the law – environmental or otherwise – if it’s broken. Enter the city politicos, ever ready to jump on a bandwagon if it will give them political advantage (oil trains, new stadiums, renaming holidays). I used to work in City Hall – – they’d come out against motherhood if they thought it would guarantee them the next election, or a chance at a larger political stage.

  • Jefe March 10, 2015 (10:31 am)

    That repair yard in the port is a loud polluted mess already. I paddle by it all the time. This is a bad idea for everyone and everything living here in seattle.

  • west seattle codger March 10, 2015 (11:33 am)

    No, time for the purists to do what the developers are waiting for. Close the dirty old port. Move all those inconvenient containers and trucks and railroads out so we can have a pure environment. Then, start building the high rise condos and SRO’s, excuse me, apodments, and the developers can walk away laughing with the boatloads of money in their pockets and the city left holding the bag again.

  • relax - take a breath March 10, 2015 (11:34 pm)

    Some of the $$ made by Shell Oil must be used to clean up their dirty deeds so we can still drive our cars. How did they make those solar panels that charge your e-car without some petrol energy? Motivated students from all fields should be working on environmental damage prevention. Prince William Sound was polluted by a drunk pilot falling asleep and running the ship aground. Doesn’t Seattle graduate some SOBER kids? I”m not sure getting political means you’re taking responsibility for the direction our world is heading.

  • Tony March 21, 2015 (12:40 pm)

    When are these oil vessels are coming to seattle,does anyone know

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