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Lawsuit challenges Port of Seattle lease for Shell Arctic drilling fleet

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Posted by Chris Klint, Senior Digital Producer, [email protected]: Mar 02, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 19.49.45ANCHORAGE – An array of Washington-based environmental groups has sued the Port of Seattle over a leasing agreement to host Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling fleet, claiming the deal was negotiated in secret and may pollute the port.

Shell contractor Foss Maritime received a two-year lease, announced in February, for 50 acres of waterfront property and the mooring of up to eight vessels. Port officials expected the lease to bring in at least $13 million in rent during the two-year period.

A Monday statement from Earthjustice says the suit, filed in King Country Superior Court against the port, asks the court to vacate the lease. The suit was filed on behalf of several groups including the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, the Sierra Club, the Washington Environmental Council, and the Seattle Audubon Society.

Shell announced in January that it was planning a return to the Chukchi Sea this year for offshore exploratory drilling, one of the company’s few expansion moves as it cut $15 billion in expenses due to plummeting oil prices. Shell CFO Simon Henry estimated the minimum cost of the operation and its support fleet at nearly $1 billion, whether or not the company is ultimately able to drill wells.

Earthjustice alluded to the chaotic aftermath of Shell’s 2012 drilling season, in which the drilling unit Kulluk ran aground near Kodiak.

The group also took objection to the planned reuse of the Noble Discoverer, a vessel cited by the Coast Guard for safety and environmental violations in 2012; owner Noble Drilling pleaded guilty to federal felony charges and paid hefty fines to settle them in December.

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RELATED

Environmental groups sue Port of Seattle over Shell oil fleet: Reuters 3 March 2015

Extract

The complaint against the port and Foss Maritime Co, which would work for Shell under the two-year lease, also alleged that officials reached the arrangement without public disclosure and that the fleet could pollute the area’s water.

“The Port shut out the public and subverted laws that are designed to foster an informed public assessment of controversial proposals like this one,” Earthjustice Managing Attorney Patti Goldman said in a statement.

Environmentalists sue Port of Seattle over Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet: AlaskaDispatch 2 March 2015

Extract

Shell is considering offshore exploratory drilling again this summer in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast if it can obtain the necessary permits.

Environmental groups say the port was secretive in its lease negotiations and did not allow for proper public review. They also say Shell’s drilling fleet has a poor track record when it comes to pollution and compliance with environmental laws.

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Shell contractor faces $12.2M in fines for environmental, safety violations

Desperate scramble to save the Kulluk before it grounded near Kodiak

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