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Alaskan Natives Support Arctic Drilling; City Council Opposed

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After hearing testimony in favor of Arctic oil drilling, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to join Mayor Ed Murray in opposing the Port of Seattle’s lease with Royal Dutch Shell.  

The resolution doesn’t carry the legal authority to block the port's decision to host Royal Dutch Shell's drilling fleet. But it was enough of a statement that several Alaska Native leaders traveled from remote areas in the Arctic to lobby in favor of the lease with the city council. 

The jobs drilling would bring are vital, the Alaska representatives said.

“We left our homes at a critical time. We have come off the ice from whaling to speak to you," said John Hobson Jr.

Hobson came from Wainright AK, about 70 miles east of where the Arctic offshore drilling will take place.  He said the journey at this time was “a huge impostion,” especially with the requirement for testimony in talking points limited to 2 minutes max in council chambers. They came anyway.

“We felt it is important to our long-term livelihood that you understand that there are people involved who want the same things you have: flush toilets, good health care, quality schools for our children.”

Shell has just received conditional approval from the US interior Department, getting them one step closer to a sure bet that their Arctic drilling plan can go ahead off the Alaskan coast this summer. The Alaska natives here this week will also speak at the port commission meeting later today. 

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to