SEATTLE – A giant floating oil rig currently anchored off Port Angeles, Washington, will be towed to Seattle this week despite the Seattle mayor’s assertion that the Port of Seattle can’t host the rig until it gets a new land-use permit, a Royal Dutch Shell spokesman said Monday.
In an email, Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said the 400-foot-long Polar Pioneer was scheduled to arrive at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 “later in the week” to prepare for planned exploration in the Arctic Ocean.
Protesters in kayaks have promised to challenge the rig.
Smith said his company believes its arrangements to use the terminal are valid and disagrees with Seattle’s interpretation.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has urged the port to reconsider its two-year, $13 million lease with Foss Maritime, a company whose client is Shell.
“This is an opportunity for the port and all of us to make a bold statement about how oil companies contribute to climate change, oil spills and other environmental disasters – and reject this short-term lease,” Murray said earlier.
Murray spokesmen did not immediately return Associated Press calls and emails seeking comment Monday evening.
The mayor “expects the Port of Seattle to obtain all required city permits for Terminal 5,” Murray spokesman Jason Kelly told the Peninsula Daily News in response to Shell’s latest announcement.
The Seattle City Council on Monday approved a resolution encouraging the Port of Seattle to reconsider the rig-hosting deal.
“None of the parties involved, including Foss and the Port of Seattle, share the city’s interpretation of how T5 can be used,” Shell spokesman Smith said in his email. “Furthermore, we view our lease and the supporting contract Foss has with the Port as valid.”
Port commissioners planned to take up the lease issue at a meeting Tuesday.
The Polar Pioneer is one of two drill rigs Shell plans to use this summer for exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast. Smith said the second rig, the Noble Discoverer, was headed for the Port of Everett, Washington.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Monday approved a multi-year Chukchi exploration plan for Shell.
Shell must still obtain other permits from state and federal agencies, including one to drill from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. Both BOEM and BSEE are agencies of the U.S. Department of Interior. The company must also obtain government opinions that find Shell can comply with terms and conditions of the Endangered Species Act.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management acted after reviewing thousands of comments from the public, Alaska Native organizations and state and federal agencies.