Arctic drilling | KNKX

Arctic drilling

Reese Semanko via AP

Local environmentalists are celebrating the Obama administration’s announcement that it is canceling upcoming auctions for drilling rights in the Arctic’s Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.

The Interior Department also announced it has denied requests for extensions of Arctic leases currently held by Shell and Statoil.

Elaine Thompson / AP

  Royal Dutch Shell PLC says it's ceasing exploration in offshore Alaska for the foreseeable future.The company says an exploratory well drilled to 6,800 feet found oil and gas but not in sufficient quantities.

Shell USA President Marvin Odum says in an announcement early Monday in The Netherlands that it's a disappointing outcome for that part of the Chukchi Sea basin. Shell drilled in 150 feet of water about 80 miles off Alaska's northwest coast.The exploratory well was the first in the Chukchi in 24 years.

Bellamy Pailthorp, KPLU

What’s the legal definition of a “cargo terminal” in Seattle? That’s the question before the city’s Hearing Examiner this week.

The answer will determine whether Royal Dutch Shell can bring vessels from its Arctic drilling fleet back to Seattle without breaking the law -- and whether the Port of Seattle can receive $13 million for the use of the facility.

Bellamy Pailthorp

Royal Dutch Shell's huge oil-drilling rig, the Polar Pioneer, was towed out of Seattle early Monday despite a blockade by a kayak flotilla that attempted to keep it from leaving for the Arctic.

According to the the U.S Coast Guard,  24 protesters were detained after they violated the established "safety zone" around the giant, Alaska-bound oil drilling rig.

The two-dozen detainees, who were only a portion of the large contingent of protesters, were released after receiving civil "notices of violation" that can include a $500 fine but don't carry criminal penalties.

It’s the latest front in the growing global movement to stop fossil fuel extraction. The Port of Seattle, a longtime staging point for expeditions to cash in on Alaska’s natural resources, has been home this spring to a standoff between oil giant Shell and legions of protesting “kayaktivists” and others hoping to foil the company’s plans to send a massive drilling rig to the Arctic Ocean next month.

AP Images

Royal Dutch Shell’s Arctic prospecting plans have sparked two new lawsuits. An alliance of environmental and Alaska-based community groups is challenging the sale of leases in the Chukchi Sea. The second suit takes issue with Shell’s exploration plan, which was recently approved by a federal agency.

Eric Grafe is with Earthjustice, which filed the suit against Shell’s Arctic exploration plan in Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Grafe is representing ten other groups, including the Alaska Wilderness League, Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth.

The plan recently  got a green light from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

“The specific plan that Shell’s developed was approved very quickly, in 30 days, with just a very cursory environmental review,” said Grafe.

He says Shell’s record in the Arctic was already bad after its failed attempts to explore there in 2012, with one drilling rig, the Kulluk, running aground and totaled, and another catching fire.

The company subsequently paid more than a million dollars for air pollution violations and its main contractor pled guilty for felony convictions and paid $12 million in fines. 

AP Images

UPDATE: At a press conference about WiFi for the poor, Mayor Ed Murray was asked about the drilling permit and if the city planned further legal action.

Murray said he wasn't interested in a confrontation, but rather changing the port commissioners' minds. He said he believes he accomplished that with the city's stated opposition. He also says the city and the Port of Seattle were in conversations about the Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig.

"My goal is not to score points. My goal is to actually change the commission's mind, the Port Commission's mind and we accomplished that goal." Mayor Ed Murray.


AP Images

SEATTLE (AP) — An oil rig outfitted for exploration in the remote Arctic Ocean parked in Seattle's harbor Thursday, marking a pivotal moment for an environmental movement increasingly mobilized around climate change.

Activists paddling out in kayaks to meet the rig off Seattle's picturesque waterfront said it's their moment to stand against opening a new frontier of fossil fuel exploration.

"Unless people get out there and put themselves on the front lines and say enough is enough, then nothing will ever change," said Jordan Van Voast, 55, an acupuncturist who was going out on the water to confront the Polar Pioneer. "I'm hopeful that people are waking up."

About two dozen kayakers paddled around Elliott Bay as the towering rig passed the city's Space Needle. The tiny boats, which kept their distance from the rig, were dwarfed by the 400-foot-long structure rising nearly 300 feet above the water. 

The image suggests how outmatched Shell's opponents have been as they try to keep the petroleum giant from continuing its $6 billion effort to open new oil and gas reserves in one of the world's most dangerous maritime environments.

Environmental groups in the Pacific Northwest are sensing a shift in the politics that surround energy production and have mobilized against a series of projects that would transform the region into a gateway for crude oil and coal exports to Asia.

Bellamy Pailthorp, KPLU

While the Polar Pioneer remains parked in Port Angeles, 

a second oil drilling rig -- the Noble Discoverer -- arrived Everett Tuesday, where it was greeted by activists and onlookers. 

The arrival brings additional attention to the Port of Seattle which is facing continued controversy over its agreement with Royal Dutch Shell to service the oil giant's Arctic  drilling vessels. And despite a port commission request for a delay of any moorage of oil exploration vessels and a city council vote in opposition to the deal, the two rigs are on their way. 

AP Images

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.

Lucas Randall-Owens / KPLU

On the shore of Seaview Park in West Seattle, a group of young activists stands behind a row of bright yellow kayaks.  Most of them are new to boating. An instructor from Alki Kayak Tours gives a safety briefing before they head out for a sunset paddle. 

Donna Gordon Blankinship / AP Photo

A drill rig that could be used for oil drilling in the Arctic will arrive in Port Angeles on Friday and remain there for about two weeks before it heads to Seattle.

Protesters have said they plan to meet it when it arrives in Seattle in May.

In a statement, the Port of Port Angeles said the 400-foot Polar Pioneer will be off-loaded and then have equipment installed.

The Coast Guard says protesters will have to stay 100 yards away from the rig when it is anchored - and 500 yards away when it is in transit.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Environmental groups are suing the Port of Seattle over its decision to let Royal Dutch Shell base part of its Arctic drilling fleet here, arguing the port needed to allow more public involvement and violated two state laws. 

The port last month signed a two-year lease with Foss Maritime, the company that will manage Shell’s drilling fleet here in Seattle at Terminal 5. That terminal has been empty since last summer because the port is planning to overhaul it to allow bigger cargo ships. So this is a temporary use to generate about $13 million.