Shell Oil

Bellamy Pailthorp, KPLU

What’s the legal definition of a “cargo terminal” in Seattle? That’s the question before the city’s Hearing Examiner this week.

The answer will determine whether Royal Dutch Shell can bring vessels from its Arctic drilling fleet back to Seattle without breaking the law -- and whether the Port of Seattle can receive $13 million for the use of the facility.

AP Images

Royal Dutch Shell’s Arctic prospecting plans have sparked two new lawsuits. An alliance of environmental and Alaska-based community groups is challenging the sale of leases in the Chukchi Sea. The second suit takes issue with Shell’s exploration plan, which was recently approved by a federal agency.

Eric Grafe is with Earthjustice, which filed the suit against Shell’s Arctic exploration plan in Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Grafe is representing ten other groups, including the Alaska Wilderness League, Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth.

The plan recently  got a green light from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

“The specific plan that Shell’s developed was approved very quickly, in 30 days, with just a very cursory environmental review,” said Grafe.

He says Shell’s record in the Arctic was already bad after its failed attempts to explore there in 2012, with one drilling rig, the Kulluk, running aground and totaled, and another catching fire.

The company subsequently paid more than a million dollars for air pollution violations and its main contractor pled guilty for felony convictions and paid $12 million in fines. 

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

 The City of Seattle has determined that some of the oil drilling equipment parked on the edge of Elliott Bay does not have the right kind of permit. This includes the large yellow platform called the Polar Pioneer.

The Port has appealed the decision. The City’s Hearing Examiner is scheduled to  take up the issue on June 3rd.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

As Royal Dutch Shell’s Polar Pioneer oil rig arrived in Puget Sound, the noise coming from a  Coast Guard helicopter rang out across the water. It was deafening and added to the drama of watching an enormous new oil rig enter Elliott Bay.

Royal Dutch Shell is planning to send the Polar Pioneer along with a fleet of ships to the Arctic to drill this summer, now that President Obama has approved the oil giant's plans.

The bright yellow drilling machine took its place at Terminal 5 in West Seattle Thursday afternoon, accompanied by local tugs.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Environmental groups are suing the Port of Seattle over its decision to let Royal Dutch Shell base part of its Arctic drilling fleet here, arguing the port needed to allow more public involvement and violated two state laws. 

The port last month signed a two-year lease with Foss Maritime, the company that will manage Shell’s drilling fleet here in Seattle at Terminal 5. That terminal has been empty since last summer because the port is planning to overhaul it to allow bigger cargo ships. So this is a temporary use to generate about $13 million. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The CEO of the Port of Seattle has signed a lease agreement that will allow the Shell Oil Company to base part of its Arctic drilling fleet in West Seattle despite the threat of a lawsuit from a coalition of environmental groups.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

Environmentalists turned out in full force Wednesday to voice their opposition to a Port of Seattle agreement allowing Shell Oil to base its 26-ship Arctic drilling fleet in West Seattle.

A coalition of state and national groups is threatening to sue the Port over its agreement to lease the currently-vacant Terminal 5 to the oil company for up to four years.

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Minor oil spills at Bellingham have plagued construction of an oil spill containment barge needed for Shell Oil to drill exploratory wells in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska. The Washington Ecology Department says hydraulic systems leaked on July 24, Aug. 4 and Aug. 6, each releasing about a quart of oil into Whatcom Waterway. The department sent a notice of violation to Superior Energy Services, which is building the Arctic Challenger.