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Seattle Activists Throw ‘Unwelcome Party’ for Arctic-Bound Shell Oil Rig

This article originally appeared on the website of Waging Nonviolence

Off the coast of Seattle yesterday, Royal Dutch Shell docked the “Polar Pioneer,” an oil rig attempting to make its way up to Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. In response, a fleet of 20 kayaks – manned by local environmental activists and the Duwamish Tribe – rowed out to throw it an “unwelcome party,” defying a 500-foot police and Coast Guard mandated “safety zone” around the rig.

Arctic Destroyer Arrives in Port Angelesphoto by Backbone Campaign, on Flickr

“It’s been an exciting time to work with so many diverse groups and to see people move quickly,” Cassady Sharp of the Shell No! coalition told the Seattle Times. “But at the end of day, nobody wants Shell in Seattle or drilling in Alaska.”

The Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5, which is privately owned and operates under a separate governance structure from the city, is currently leased out to the company Foss Maritime. Since last year, Foss has been pushing for Shell and other fossil fuel corporations to be able to use the space, and promised $13.17 million for the 50-acre deal. When the Obama administration (conditionally) approved Arctic drilling earlier this week, Shell took advantage of the decision by pulling into the port. Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development, however, has rejected a municipal permit for the company to dock and perform maintenance on the rig, with Mayor Ed Murray saying that Shell could face daily fines for failing to comply with city orders.

In a show of some bravado, Foss spokesman Pat Queary told the press that, “The port asked us nicely to not come while the legal thing was being resolved, which they knew we couldn’t do and are not doing.”

The kayaks are part of a multi-pronged strategy to stop the Polar Pioneer, another aspect of which is a lawsuit currently moving through courts, and has already delayed the rig’s advancement north for the summer, when it is scheduled to begin drilling. Linking up in the water, kayakers unveiled a banner reading “Arctic Drilling = Climate Change.”

Rising hundreds of feet above the water, the rig is – to say the least – an eyesore in Seattle’s Elliot Bay. It is also, of course, an unwelcome piece of fossil fuel infrastructure in a city whose citizens and elected officials have voiced their opposition to Arctic drilling and the expansion of the fossil fuel economy. Coincidentally, Shell’s incursion into Terminal 5 on Thursday also came the same day that, under student pressure, the University of Washington’s Board of Regents decided to divest its $2.8 billion endowment from coal.

Demonstrators are expecting a larger crowd tomorrow for a “flotilla rally” to continue to ramp up pressure on Shell to discontinue its operations in the Arctic, and to call on the federal government to ban the practice outright. What happens in Seattle may prove a bellwether for the future of the fossil fuel industry in the Pacific Northwest. Nineteen liquid natural gas terminals have been proposed along the British Columbian coast. Tesoro Corporation has set its sites on nearby Vancouver, Washington as a terminal for Bakken oil trains traveling in for export from North Dakota. Canada’s Trans-Mountain Pipeline is seeking to triple its capacity and create a massive oil port in Burnaby, British Columbia. Much of this proposed construction would also cross through protected indigenous land and resources.

“The fact is, the protection of our fishery is a constitutional obligation of our federal government,” said Tim Ballew II, chair of the Lummi Indian Business Council. “We will hold the federal government accountable.”

With the Polar Pioneer’s 400 by 300-foot dimensions, the fight over the oil rig will put the question of fossil fuel extraction, quite literally, front and center in the city of Seattle. Given the sheer mass of the rig, local activists now have the chance to tell – and win – what could be one of the most visceral David versus Goliath stories of the last decade.

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Royal Dutch Shell has purchased the URL and plan to create a PR campaign to target the protesters. Look forward to the launch of this website.

By PC Richards on Sat, May 16, 2015 at 8:00 pm

If derailment is the problem then the main goal is to prevent the derailment, or, keep the rail cars from tipping over.
A document by the rail industry tells the owners of tracks how to maintain the rails. It runs to 22 pages and covers all kinds of problems with tracks being out of plum, rail ties wearing out, switches not functioning, etc. (…)
Scan this document and gain comfort from the fact that there is really no mystery as to why trains derail. But don’t get too comfortable, for if you think about what you’ve read, you see that the problem is there are a lot of things that go wrong with rails, and there are 150,000 miles of track to inspect. With more and heavier trains traversing a track the frequency of inspections has to go up.
The cost of inspection, whether by human inspectors or by higher technology dilutes profit. In other words, inspections decrease derailments and thereby save the railroad money. But, on average, the derailments have cost less than the cost of added inspections.
It is akin to the healthcare problem - how much and how often should we get diagnostic tests and who should pay?
The railroad economists have worked this out.
The Federal Railroad Administration, that federal agency empowered to make and enforce the rules about inspections, would have quite an argument from the railroads if it ordered more inspections. The FRA needs pressure from the people it should be working for - namely us.
Let them hear from you at

By Paul Wulterkens on Fri, May 15, 2015 at 5:09 pm

Good news fellow liberals and planet lovers!
After 34 years of climate action failure to SAVE THE PLANET we can safely “believe” now that science’s 97% certainty was NOT certainty of anything.
But if you hate Harper enough to exaggerate and fear monger vague science to your own children then YOU have become the new fear mongering neocon.

By mememine69 on Fri, May 15, 2015 at 3:22 pm

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