Seattle-area groups are challenging the Port of Seattle’s lack of public process and failure to assess the environmental repercussions of becoming Shell’s Arctic drilling homeport. On March 2, 2015, the environmental groups pushed for swift review of their legal challenge in King County Superior Court.
Today Judge Mariane Spearman ruled that the case can be heard and directed the parties to negotiate the record for her review. The coalition is asking that the court vacate the Port of Seattle’s lease based on violations of the State Environmental Policy Act and the Shoreline Management Act. The Earthjustice lawsuit explains that the Port violated its long-range sustainability plans and its shoreline permit, which designate Terminal 5 as a cargo terminal and not a homeport for a drilling fleet. Both Shell and the Port were not forthcoming in specifying when the oil giant’s drilling fleet is expected to arrive in Seattle’s waters.
Statement from Earthjustice Managing Attorney Patti Goldman: “It is not in the best interest of our local and global communities or waters to slow this case down,” said Managing Attorney Patti Goldman of Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law firm representing Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club, Washington Environmental Council and Seattle Audubon Society. “The Port Commissioners violated the people of Seattle’s trust by shutting out the public for six months while negotiating this deal and violating the rules they were elected to follow.”
Goldman’s response to claims of “playing politics” via the litigation against the Port of Seattle: “Holding an elected body accountable for their violations of the public trust and the laws they are sworn to uphold isn’t playing politics, it’s stopping elected officials from circumventing the law. In the courtroom, it’s not about politics. It’s about the law.”
“The Port is ducking its responsibility for protecting Puget Sound,” said Mark Powell, Washington Environmental Council’s Puget Sound program director. “Leaks or spills from Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet would undermine the hundreds of millions of dollars already spent on restoration of Puget Sound and the Duwamish River.
“By leasing Terminal 5 as a cargo terminal, the Port has misrepresented the intentions of Foss Maritime, which are not to distribute cargo and goods, but rather are to berth and maintain numerous Shell oil drilling support vessels,” said Susan North of Seattle Audubon. “The true activities that would take place at Terminal 5 are distinct from previous uses. These activities, in addition to the transport of vessels through the Salish Sea pose a real threat to our waters from oil and chemical contamination.”
Read the Judge's ruling.
A new public records release this week shows an intensive industry and labor lobbying effort to urge the Port of Seattle to enter into a lease. The Port lease was made known to industry long before any public disclosure. Read the document.