May 16, Seattle – Hundreds of activists, many in boats and kayaks, were gearing up on Saturday to protest plans to store two Royal Dutch Shell drilling rigs in Seattle’s waterfront before the oil giant resumes Arctic oil exploration this summer.
Environmental groups have vowed to disrupt the oil giant’s efforts to use the Port of Seattle as a home base as it outfits the rigs to return to the Chukchi Sea off Alaska, saying drilling in the remote Arctic waters could lead to an ecological catastrophe.
On Friday, about 20 kayakers met the first of two rigs that will dock in Seattle, unfurling a banner reading “Arctic Drilling = Climate Change.” On land, other protesters erected a metal tripod to try to block access to the rigs.
Saturday’s protest is expected to draw much larger crowds, including a flotilla of boats and kayaks around Shell’s terminal at the port. Another demonstration was planned for Monday, according to organizer ShellNo.
“Shell’s drilling rigs are a prime example of the root causes and injustice of the climate crisis,” the group said on its website.
The second rig is expected at the port in the coming days but the exact date has not been announced.
Environmental groups, including Greenpeace, contend weather conditions make it impossible to safely drill in the Arctic, a region that helps regulate the global climate because of its vast layers of sea ice.
Opponents of the rigs docking in Seattle, a city known for its environmental causes, include Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council.
Shell was bringing in the rigs and moving ahead as planned despite the opposition and a ruling earlier this week by the city’s planning department that the port’s agreement with the company was in violation of its city permit.
“The timeline now is just to make sure the rigs are ready to go,” said Curtis Smith, a Shell spokesman.
Earlier this week, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management gave conditional approval to Shell’s resumption of fossil fuel exploration in the Arctic, which was paused after a mishap-filled 2012 season.
The decision was met with approval by some Alaska lawmakers, who believe it will bring money and jobs to the state.
“Approval of Shell’s exploration plan for Alaska’s Chukchi Sea marks another important step toward the United States assuming a leadership role in the Arctic,” Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said in a statement. (Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech)
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