'The World is Watching' Seattle as Arctic Drilling Fight Heats Up

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The Seattle Port Commission on Tuesday passed a resolution asking Shell to delay the arrival of its Arctic drilling rig, bending to pressure from local citizens, environmentalists, and city officials who packed the hearing to express outrage over the Commission's unilateral decision to house the oil fleet.

Local lawmakers are scrambling in the face of mounting public opposition to the news Monday that the Obama administration had granted conditional approval for Shell to begin its Arctic oil exploration.

Seattle Mayor Ed Mayor said that the Port Commission must apply for a new land-use permit in order to grant the oil giant a "homeport" lease for its drilling rig. However, the Commission did not go so far as to rescind the initial lease and, refusing to alter its drilling schedule, Shell still plans for its rig and support vessels to reach the port later this week before heading to Arctic waters.

The Seattle Times reports:

"Rig movement will commence in the days to come," said Shell spokesman Curtis Smith in an email.

Foss Maritime CEO Paul Stevens, whose company is slated to work on the Shell rigs at Terminal 5, was equally blunt: "We are going to proceed… These rigs and our operation will be in and out of here before there is any conclusion on the appeal process." He said the first of the two drilling ships will arrive Thursday.

Under the banner "sHellNO," local activists and environmental groups are holding a series of demonstrations in the coming days to protest Arctic drilling and other "extreme energy" projects in the face of the growing climate crisis. On Thursday, a band of kayakers are planning to confront the Shell fleet when it arrives at the port. Organizers are holding nonviolent protest trainings this week ahead of a mass direct action on Monday, during which activists have pledged to shut down Shell operations at the berthed rig.

During the Commission hearing, concerned citizens gave three hours of passionate testimony against Shell's Arctic drilling plans.

"Drilling in the precious Arctic is not on the right side of history,” Seattle resident Richard Hodgin told the assembly.

In a statement, which the New York Times said "alluded to the significance of the decision," San Francisco resident Amber Dawn Hallet, who traveled to Seattle for the protest, told the Commission: "Please be brave...The world is watching."

Other testimonies and updates were shared on Twitter.

This story was originally published on Common Dreams.


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