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, it’s time to turn the page on things like coal trains, oil trains and oil drilling rigs. It’s 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 port’s 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 – 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 Development’s investigation showed the Port of Seattle cannot use Terminal 5 as a homeport for Shell’s 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 Port’s circumvention of public process and violation of the State Environmental Policy Act. The City’s decision today is consistent with our argument that Shell’s use of Terminal 5 is a change from the Terminal’s historical use as a cargo terminal and requires environmental review and the issuance of new permits.
“We applaud the Mayor’s office and the City of Seattle for prioritizing this investigation and reaching a conclusion consistent with the law and the public’s interest in full participation,” said Earthjustice Managing Attorney Patti Goldman. “We urge the Port of Seattle’s commissioners to take the Mayor’s invitation to use this opportunity to reevaluate the Port’s priorities and to reject Shell’s use of Seattle’s waters as a homeport for its harmful Arctic drilling operations.”
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 5’s 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 mayor’s comments.
The Mayor’s action also raises grave concerns about his stated commitment to Seattle’s 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 city’s working waterfront.
ADDED 4:58 PM: The mayor has published something of a rebuttal to that last paragraph.