As Shell Arrives in Seattle With Drilling Rigs, Kayakers Vow to Block It

By now, you may have heard that Shell got its second permit, paving the way for exploratory drilling in the Arctic this summer. 

Last month, DOI gave Shell permission to lease 30 million acres in the Chukchi Sea, and this permit allows them to drill up to six exploratory wells. About five more permits are needed before it can begin the actual oil drilling.

The authorization comes with five pages of conditions Shell must follow to protect the environment, wildlife and nearby residents – the same weak analysis a court ruled against last year.

"We have taken a thoughtful approach to carefully considering potential exploration in the Chukchi Sea, recognizing the significant environmental, social and ecological resources in the region and establishing high standards for the protection of this critical ecosystem, our Arctic communities, and the subsistence needs and cultural traditions of Alaska Natives," says Abigail Ross Hopper, who heads DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). "As we move forward, any offshore exploratory activities will continue to be subject to rigorous safety standards."

The nonprofit law firm Earthjustice sees it differently: "The project Interior approved today is bigger, dirtier, and louder than any previous plan, calling for more sound disturbances and harassment of whales and seals, more water and air pollution, and more vessels and helicopters."

And, of course, it poses the completely unacceptable and unnecessary risk of a catastrophic oil spill that no one has any idea of how to clean up in the Arctic.

"We are deeply disappointed that just days after the United States took over chairmanship of the Arctic Council  – an international body dedicated to protecting the Arctic environment – the Obama Administration decided to allow Shell to move forward with its dirty and dangerous plan to drill in our Arctic waters. This is exactly the wrong message to send to the world," says Michael Brune, Executive Director of Sierra Club.

Indeed, when the US took over the Chair of the Arctic Council this year, Secretary of State John Kerry said his top priorities  would be stewardship of the Arctic Ocean and addressing climate change. 

Most amazing is the DOI’s analysis shows there is a 75% chance of a major oil spill if drilling proceeds.  

18 Democrats, led by Senator Jeff Merkley (OR), are urging Interior Secretary Jewel to retire oil leases in the Chukchi Sea.  

Trouble in Seattle?

Shell needs a place to dock the oil rig and conveniently chose the Port of Seattle. 

When citizens heard about it they were furious, not wanting to be complicit in fossil fuel activities they are firmly against. After protests from thousands of people, Seattle’s Mayor said the Port had to apply for a permit from the City of Seattle. He’s asked the Port to reconsider the lease to Shell.

Shell already has equipment there, however, and its 400-foot Polar Pioneer will arrive this week. Hundreds of kayakers will be there to block it from entering the Port.

Shell Kayakers
Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times

"Petroleum companies are starting to control us, and now we learn they are on the verge of destroying the planet. This is part of waking people up to that fact. We have to show this is our port and Shell is trespassing," kayaker John Bito told Seattle Times, adding that he is prepared to be arrested.

On Saturday, kayakers will form a "sHell No Flotilla" with concurrent protests on land. A crowd-funded "People’s Platform" marine barge will be there to greet Shell – the solar and wind-powered barge with carry the message, "Next Time Try Solar."

Tell the Seattle Port Commission to deny Shell the permit:

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