Seattle Port Sees Latest Shell Protests

Shell Terminal 5 Protests

Published May 18, 2015 2:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

Around 200 protestors gathered Monday morning near Terminal 5 at the Port of Seattle to block access to a shell rig that will resume oil exploration activities this summer in the Arctic. 

The protests today follow action over the weekend in which hundreds of activists in kayaks gathered on Seattle Bay holding signs saying “Shell No” and “Climate Justice.”

Seattle City Council Woman Kshama Sawant was among the protestors at the port this morning. She told KIRO Radio "I'm joining in solidarity with the environmental community. Any drilling of oil in the Arctic represents grave danger to all humanity."

On her twitter page Sawant claims that elected leadership has failed Seattle and that the protest are a non-violent act of civil-disobedience meant to address the failure.  Additionally, the politician states on her website that, “We know if we build a strong enough opposition, we can send this climate destroyer packing and unable to make the necessary repairs to return to the Arctic.”

The environmentalist community has been quick to condemn Shell’s plans of drilling in the Arctic due to concerns over a potential catastrophic spill that could be nearly impossible to clean up. Furthermore, they claim that drilling in the area could affect fragile, climate regulating sea ice in the region. 

President Barrack Obama has come under intense scrutiny as well by many in Seattle and across the entire country. However, he has defended his decision in Shell’s favor by stating that in the wake of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, “Shell is being held to extremely high standards for the drilling it’s planning northwest of Alaska in the Chukchi Sea.” Obama went on to say, “Based on those very high standards, Shell had to go back to the drawing board, revamp its approach and the experts at this point have concluded that they have met those standards."

Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management gave conditional approval to Shell's return to exploration in the Arctic, which was suspended after a mishap-filled 2012 season. Some Alaska lawmakers welcomed the decision because, they said, it would bring money and jobs to the state.

The Port of Seattle released a statement over the weekend saying that impacts to its facilities from the protests ‘are expected to be significant.’ However, a port spokesman noted that operations at Terminal 5 are minimal on Monday and the biggest reported delay was the shutdown of a road leading into the terminal. 

Despite the opposition, Shell has said it was moving ahead with plans to keep the rigs in Seattle until mid-summer, when the drilling fleet and its crew plans to return to the Arctic.