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Shell facing stiff Seattle opposition

Company's Polar Pioneer wading in waters off Washington port.

By
Daniel J. Graeber
Seattle protestors plan weekend events in an effort to try to show Shell is a poor steward for the environment. Photo courtesy: Emily Johnston/350 Seattle.
Seattle protestors plan weekend events in an effort to try to show Shell is a poor steward for the environment. Photo courtesy: Emily Johnston/350 Seattle.

SEATTLE, May 15 (UPI) -- Though Shell may drill in Alaska's arctic waters no matter how many protests are held, a Seattle organizer said the company can be cast in a bad light.

Seattle organizers are planning weekend protests against Shell's use of a port terminal for drilling rigs bound for the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska. Emily Johnston, a spokeswoman for advocacy group 350 Seattle, said in response to email questions port consideration for Shell was offensive.

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"We probably can't stop them from getting to Alaska this summer, but we can make sure they don't get to make such catastrophic decisions in quiescent business-as-usual conditions," she said. "We'll shine a bright light on exactly how bad an actor they are."

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray last week expressed opposition to Shell's lease for a port terminal for use for its drilling plans offshore Alaska. With federal approval in hand, Shell said it may start its drilling campaign as early as this summer.

The drillship Polar Pioneer is positioned just off the Seattle coast. It's one of two rigs Shell aims to use in the arctic waters off the coast of Alaska. Six Greenpeace activists scaled Polar Pioneer as it moved toward Seattle waters last month.

The company has already devoted about $5 billion and more than eight years of work to its arctic oil exploration campaign. The drillship Kulluk struck ground off the Alaskan coast in 2012, and the U.S. Coast Guard blamed harsh winter conditions and the company's efforts to escape Alaskan tax laws for the incident.

Seattle port officials said Tuesday the Dutch oil company has to wait to dock Polar Pioneer until all necessary permits are in place, though Shell said it has the authority to move forward. The city's mayor, however, said he hoped the company would "respect the wishes of the Port, the city and the community at large, and not bring an offshore drilling rig into Elliott Bay."

A spokesman at Shell's headquarters referred queries to the U.S. team, who were unavailable for comment. In a statement on its website, the company said it has a commitment to protect the environment.

"Shell intends to be a part of Alaska for a long time," the statement read.

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