Seattle Fights Arctic Oil Drilling Fleet

     SEATTLE (CN) – Shell’s Arctic drilling rigs are headed for Seattle, though the Port of Seattle Commission asked the company to delay the move pending legal review.
     The port on Tuesday adopted a resolution to ask Foss Maritime, the company developing the rigs, to halt the ships’ movement until resolution of the company’s challenge of a ruling by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray banning the fleet.
     Murray found that moorage and maintenance of the Arctic drilling fleet violates the port’s lease as a cargo terminal.
     “The Port of Seattle Commission voted today to ask Foss to abide by the current City of Seattle regulations,” Port Commission Co-President Stephanie Bowman said in a statement Tuesday night. “We also voted to appeal the City of Seattle’s interpretation of the cargo use at Terminal 5. An appeal hearing provides a legal, structured format that acknowledges the seriousness of our concerns about changing longstanding permit requirements, and should not be viewed as hostile to the City of Seattle.
     “We expect that this will also provide a fair and objective opportunity for all affected parties to participate. We will work with the City of Seattle to define ‘cargo,’ as maritime businesses need that certainty.”
     Murray commended the port for requesting the delay.
     “I now hope Shell will respect the wishes of the Port, the City and the community at large, and not bring an offshore drilling rig into Elliott Bay,” Murray said in a statement Tuesday night.
     Foss plans to appeal the decision, but refuses to stop the move.
     One of the rigs is at port in Everett and another is at Port Angeles. Both ships will be coming to the Seattle port in the next few days, according to Foss.
     “The city’s 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,” Foss said in a statement.
     The port, anticipating controversy, voted in January to host Shell’s rigs and support vessels in a lease approved without advance public notice. According to the port, the 2-year lease is worth about $13 million.
     Environmentalists have expressed outrage over the port’s hosting the Arctic drilling rigs.
     Shell plans to do exploratory oil and gas drilling this summer off Alaska’s northwest coast.

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