Shell @ Terminal 5: Port of Seattle files its appeal of city ‘interpretation,’ calling it ‘irrational’

“Irrational” is one word the Port of Seattle is using to describe the city Department of Planning and Development interpretation suggesting Shell oil rigs can’t use Terminal 5 without a new permit. That’s part of what the port argues in its official appeal of the interpretation, which we found in the city Hearing Examiner‘s files, hours after it was posted there late Friday:

The filing came 24 hours after Shell’s platform Polar Pioneer arrived at Terminal 5 – where it was photographed from the air on Friday by West Seattle photographer/pilot Long Bach Nguyen:

And it came three days after a 5-hour Port Commission meeting ended with two motions passed, the second of which directed port staff to file an appeal (WSB coverage here). The port tenant that’s hosting Shell, Foss Maritime, has already filed its appeal, as first reported here hours after that meeting. The verbiage in the port’s document is notably sharper, especially in its opening assertion that “the effect of the interpretation, if affirmed on appeal, will be to make unlawful the moorage of many different kinds of vessels, including … tugboats … marine-construction vessels … cruise vessels … icebreakers … ships of state … research vessels … diving vessels … oil-spill-response vessels … seismic vessels … Seattle Fire Department fireboats.”

The appeal later also suggests that since the port is a steward of its marine environment and that hosting many different types of vessels is a key component of that, the appeal could be environmentally damaging and therefore is subject to review under the State Environmental Policy Act. Appeals typically will go before the Hearing Examiner, but usually not for a few months until their filing; we’re not seeing a date on the docket yet. Meantime, the city told WSB on Wednesday that the appeal process wouldn’t keep it from citing the port if it chose to.

29 Replies to "Shell @ Terminal 5: Port of Seattle files its appeal of city 'interpretation,' calling it 'irrational'"

  • Wesseatown May 16, 2015 (5:56 am)

    We never had these problems whenTay Yoshitani was port director. I think this new port of Seattle director might be a schill for big oil. He hasn’t been here long and he already has the port a mess…maybe we need another port director?

  • PDieter May 16, 2015 (6:49 am)

    DPD irrational? Pretty sure that’s not news to most of us.

  • Scott May 16, 2015 (8:19 am)

    The Port put the smack down with this appeal. I really like number 5 in section 3, which states “… DPD to determine that a vessel cannot moor at the Port…facility because DPD does not approve of the use that the vessel may be put to once the vessel is under navigation elsewhere. or because DPD does not approve of what it believes will be the destination, or use of the vessel’s cargo in another jurisdiction…”

  • Les May 16, 2015 (8:27 am)

    I’m typing my response on an iPhone built in the worst polluter on the planet. I think I’ll throw my plastic kayak and life jacket (produced from oil) in my oil burning car and go down there to protest. I’ll probably get some coffee (farmed using oil burning tractors and shipped in an oil burning tanker) on the way. No irony to see here folks.

  • BB May 16, 2015 (8:38 am)

    The Port of Seattle’s argument rests on defining an oil rig platform as a “vessel” yet they provided no legal definition of vessel in their appeal. That is pretty telling, if they were confident that the oil rig platform was a vessel they would have provided the legal back up. All the vessels they cite have the ability to navigate on their own.

  • Sunny.206 May 16, 2015 (8:58 am)

    The DPD has way to much power in this city!

  • Mark May 16, 2015 (9:16 am)


    So DPD approved the permit for the investment of millions of dollars to improve the terminal for safe moorage of the Pioneer…

    And then, they handed a reversal of their position to the Mayor as he went to be the keynote speaker at a climate change breakfast.

    And now over half of the Port of Seattle business is supposedly illegal. And as the Port points out, the City itself is violating the law by mooring its fireboats downtown.

  • ChefJoe May 16, 2015 (9:34 am)

    BB, the oil platform has thrusters and can move at 6 knots according to the info sheet I read online. Tugs are more maneuverable so most large ships brought into the port are brought in by tugs.

  • Lesley May 16, 2015 (10:11 am)

    Les, I think your point is spot on. I am against Arctic drilling and want to see extreme carbon emission reductions. We have to keep it in the ground if we are to avert global catastrophe, yet the entire economy we rely on is based on it. This is the lot we are handed when we are born into this world. This is, obviously, a problem, but does that mean we have to accept it? We can see it as an opportunity to create, out of necessity, a new socio-economic model that is more just on all fronts. Do we just say, “that’s the way it is, that is how we live,” or do we say that we want to make a change? If I suddenly dropped out of society and stopped using my technology and anything that is created with fossil fuels, I would do no one any good. This has to be a global shift that starts with free expression and ends with changes from the top that will move the power structure we currently have in place so we have alternatives. And it doesn’t happen overnight, but it needed to happen yesterday, so time is of the essence. We HAVE to think with open minds. If people had always just said, “that’s the way it is and that’s the way it always will be,” we would still be forcing Africans onto boats to the Americas as slaves. Women would still be owned by their husbands. Children would be performing hard labor. Etc, etc….

  • cj May 16, 2015 (10:30 am)

    Well when you push something big and heavy like this oil drilling platform in with submerged issues its amazing what comes to the surface. Things that should have been dealt with long ago. That however does not mean we should ignore this issue. Hosting a big drilling rig puts Seattle in a position so that it will have a hard time resisting more incoming big oil components. We need to remember that we did not see this coming. That by itself is as disturbing as the vessel. Effort was made to keep this info submerged and out of the public eye till it was too late and I have to wonder what else we may not have discovered.

  • mike May 16, 2015 (11:13 am)

    Irrational? I’ll tell you what’s irrational – DRILLING THE ARCTIC!

  • innocentbystander May 16, 2015 (11:13 am)

    Now is an excellent opportunity to expose the DPD for what it does on a smaller level on a fairly regular basis: deny use and issuing permits on an arbitrary basis that violates city policy and the law. Neighborhood activists take note.

  • miws May 16, 2015 (11:52 am)

    I know that others have made some great comments on the WSB articles related to this, but I want to especially thank Lesley for making some sensible, respectful, non-emotional and, IMHO, factual comments on why we need to greatly reduce our need of, and reliance on, petroleum products, (hopefully completely, someday?).


    And, for the millionth time, just because those that are against Arctic drilling, and excessive oil consumption, use at least some form of petroleum in theirs lives, it does not make them hypocritical. We don’t have a hell of a lot of workable alternatives at this time. The anarchists bashing out Nike’s windows during WTO while wearing Nike products? I’ll give ya that one. That was hypocritical.



  • Rick May 16, 2015 (12:02 pm)

    The next time I hear “spot on” I’ll puke. You are invited to witness.

  • Yarkvark May 16, 2015 (12:16 pm)

    Yup, we all use oil…so we ALL need to be a part of the conversation as to how we reduce our dependency and addition. Huge thanks to all those who are out there in kayaks or participating in these protests from shore. And huge thanks to the courageous City officials who are fighting for our sustainable future. It’s essential that we override the Port’s shady cronyism in purposefully making this deal behind everyone’s backs.

    Seattle’s been put in a very unique position to thwart this doomed project and I hope we rise to the challenge. Oil interests aside, this has always been a horrific engineering proposal:
    1. No one really knows how to do this type of drilling safely.
    2. Even the feds think there is a 75% chance of a spill from this work.
    3. No one knows how to clean up a spill, were it to happen. (And it simply can’t be cleaned up if it happens under the ice, which would be the case for most the year.)

    Would we allow a bridge to be build if there was a 75% chance that it would collapse?

  • WSBusinessOwnerResident May 16, 2015 (12:26 pm)

    Harbor Ave a traffic jam now of idling cars packed with kayakers and supporters. How ironic as they sit there idling away burning Alaskan arctic refined crude! I’m sure news helicopters will be dispatched soon to hover over burning fuel to watch kayakers paddle around the drill rig. SMH…

    • WSB May 16, 2015 (1:35 pm)

      WSBOR, I was down there dropping off a photographer half an hour ago and one chopper. TV doesn’t usually staff on Saturdays and with the gray sky, I couldn’t tell whose it was. The traffic cleared up once everyone started getting in the water. We’ll be publishing some photos/updates soon – have been tweeting. This pic (don’t know the tweeter, though, so caveat, I don’t know what else is in his/her stream) is better than mine

  • lesley May 16, 2015 (12:39 pm)

    Thanks Mike. And also thanks to WSB for great reporting and providing a forum.

  • WSBusinessOwnerResident May 16, 2015 (2:03 pm)

    Yep, news chopper overhead now. Maybe 2 of them. Each burning 50/gallons/hour of Jet-A Kerosene . . .

  • A Little More Context Which Matters May 16, 2015 (2:08 pm)

    This conflict is bigger than Seattle and bigger than bodunk online commenters who are live life from an armchair at a laptop.

    This issue is The Moral Problem which Pope Francis has been studying to author an encyclical to address. For two years, he and his staff have been working with the governments, scientists and ngo’s to inform themselves of the context for the Roman Catholic Church’s New Encyclical on Creation which will be published in September and become doctrine mandated to Roman Catholics everywhere in every country on the planet.

    This is not just about Seattle. It is about a climate change which is happening much much faster than scientists who have warned us for decades would happen “unless”. When the Catholic Church rewrites “how to live in regards to Creation” rules, people….well, the powers that be, religious, scientific and governmental…are collaborating across ideologies and philosophies to divert eminent disaster. Rest assured…this isn’t about jobs in Seattle for union workers. It is about the planet surviving a few generations out. Serious. Very serious.

    So serious, Yale environmental academics are talking about the relevancy for climate change:

  • Paula May 16, 2015 (2:08 pm)

    The Port is for loading and off-loading cargo. It is not a parking lot for drilling rigs. Nor is it a boatyard for vessel repair. The Port Council is supposed to be in service to the citizens of Seattle, not to themselves or to corporations.

  • patricia davis May 16, 2015 (2:10 pm)

    TWO ISSUES are going on: 1) the issues relative to oil drilling in Alaska 2) PAY ATTENTION to what Terminal 5 is being used for and the impact on OUR air and water. The Port of Seattle is a bully! Foss arrogant ! Good for DPD and City of Seattle for ‘pushing back’

    Another oil rig is coming in after this one. And this all sets the ground work for bigger vessels right under west seattle’s breathing air. Port activities are often extremely air polluting (air and water) and there was a new law “Clean Ports Act of 2013” which Seattle signed off on to try to help protect our water and air.

    Again: It is no accident those orange colored cranes did not get updated to the larger white ones. Why? The Port has plans to put even bigger cranes – MASSIVE – at Terminal 5.

    Ever watch the diesel (thick black smoke!) from the tugs? Ever watch it drift right up into our residential neighborhoods? think lots of tugs down there now that Foss leased Terminal 5. This means air quality problems of significance.

    Please do not sell out for money -protect your breathing air, your children’s breathing air, our water and our future.

    This is a wake up call – please look at the issues we have with Terminal 5 right below our neighborhoods.

    thank you City of Seattle, and DPD: NO! is the answer

  • noYardvark May 16, 2015 (5:20 pm)

    Yardvark, that 75% chance of a spill is not from “this” work. That figure is actually estimated based on 8 full-scale production rigs with 500 wells over a period of 77 years. This is an exploratory drill rig and not production-oriented.

  • a little more context May 16, 2015 (7:48 pm)

    Cite your source for that noYardvark. The 75% figure is ALL over the Seattle media/internet yesterday and today. Rhetoric needs good sources linked or you are just another voice in the wilderness.

  • ChefJoe May 16, 2015 (10:18 pm)

    a little more context,
    it’s on pg 208 of the pdf BOEM report (156 by the document’s page number) as analyzed here. I’d quote more, but then my comments won’t be approved.

  • a little more context May 17, 2015 (12:30 am)

    Got it Chefjoe. Thx.

  • William King May 17, 2015 (12:34 pm)

    Royal Dutch Shell has acquired the URL from someone in Carolina. An inside source that brokered this deal told me that the oil giant plans to target the tree huggers in the Northwest states. Please contact the webmaster and Shell Leadership team by email at

    • WSB May 17, 2015 (12:38 pm)

      Well, if that’s true, it’s not showing up yet – as of half an hour ago, lookup shows that domain is still registered to somebody in North Carolina and parked at GoDaddy. I would be shocked that Shell hadn’t long since bought that domain. – TR

  • a little more context May 18, 2015 (8:03 am)

    Noted shell has started TV campaign. Saw one last night with Jay Leno with his car collection.

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