By Rachel Roberts
Last Thursday, the first of two Shell oilrigs which are expected to partake in Arctic oil exploration arrived in Seattle. The highly controversial rigs were met by environmental activists as Shell plans to store equipment in the Port of Seattle.
Activists were situated on shore and in kayaks off the city’s waterfront. They viewed this as an opportunity to bring attention to the many adverse effects that opening a new fossil fuel frontier (especially in the Arctic) will cause. Kayaker and protestor Jordan Van Voast said on the issue, “Unless people get out there and put themselves on the front lines and say enough is enough, then nothing will ever change. I’m hopeful that people are waking up.”
Environmentalists have raised concerns about the effect that drilling will have in the Arctic, as the ice in that region helps to regulate the global climate. They have also raised questions about the safety of drilling in the Arctic as it is remote with highly variable conditions.
Martin Adams, another protester, said, “I don’t think Shell should be drilling in the Arctic. We can’t clean it up if it spills, we don’t need the oil and it’s bad for the climate. Shell is giving us the middle finger by ignoring what the city has said and what all of us are saying.” And if history is any indicator, an oil spill in the arctic could be disastrous for ecosystems both near and far from the Arctic.
The Port of Seattle has been urged by both Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council to reconsider its current lease with Shell. Seattle’s Planning Department has determined that the Port of Seattle’s lease to Shell is in violation of its city permit.
The Port of Seattle has said that it had asked Shell to consider delaying the arrival of the rig to the City. However, a Shell spokeswoman said in a statement that the company intends to keep the rigs docked in Seattle. Seattle and the Puget Sound region have a history of being a hub for equipment used in energy production and extraction.