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Battle in Seattle

A waiting oil rig against the seattle skyline A waiting oil rig against the seattle skyline Elaine Thompson
31 May
2015
America’s most eco-conscious city rejects plans to host Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet

Seattle has a firm reputation for commitment to environmental causes. In 1991, it founded Sustainable Seattle, an NGO devoted to improving environmental standards. It also aims to be carbon neutral by 2050. But the US Department of the Interior’s decision earlier this year to approve drilling in the Alaskan Arctic may smudge the city’s green reputation.

The Port of Seattle will serve as the marshalling and maintenance yard for drilling equipment on its way to the Alaskan Arctic. One drilling vessel, Polar Pioneer, is already en route to Seattle, piggybacking on a 712ft-long transport vessel called the Blue Marlin. Shell and Seattle already has a history. In 2011, Shell brought the Kulluk platform (pictured) to the city’s port for Arctic modifications. The Kulluk later ran aground and was scrapped.

Shell plans to start drilling this summer. Those plans might be altered, if a coalition of activists is successful in blocking it’s operations. Greenpeace has already occupied the Blue Marlin in the Pacific.

They have support from Seattle’s politicians. City mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council have called for a review of Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet operations. ‘I have grave concerns about Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling fleet coming to Puget Sound in a damaged state, discharging oil and other toxic pollutants along our shorelines during transport and repair, jeopardising the local ecosystem and undoing decades of work to clean up the Sound,’ said council member Mike O'Brien.

This article was published in the June 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine

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