Seattle groups challenging the Port of Seattle’s lack of public process and environmental review before inviting Shell to make Seattle its Arctic drilling homeport have filed a motion in King County Superior Court to complete the case’s record in anticipation of a July 31 court hearing. Yesterday, Earthjustice filed a motion to submit the full record of the Port’s lack of public process and failure to assess environmental repercussions of the lease. The Port had provided the court with only the documents that supported its case, omitting even the documents cited by Judge Mariane Spearman in March to rule that the case could continue.
Statement from Earthjustice Managing Attorney Patti Goldman:
“We are in court because the Port of Seattle violated the public trust by negotiating the Shell homeport deal in secret and evading environmental review. Now the Port is telling the court only parts of the story that supports its position. The Port is trying to keep its own public meetings from the court, long-range terminal plans, past environmental reviews and information about the homeport use that supports our position that it is not a container terminal. It is time for transparency and full disclosure,” 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 coalition is asking that the court vacate the Port of Seattle’s lease based on violations of the State Environmental Policy Act. The lease converted Terminal 5, which had long been a container terminal, into a homeport, yet the Port is asserting the two uses are the same in order to claim an exemption from environmental review. The Earthjustice lawsuit challenges the exemption. The court will hear oral argument in the case on July 31.
On June 5, a Seattle Hearing Examiner gave the stamp of approval for the very same coalition of conservation organizations, represented by Earthjustice, to defend the Seattle Department of Planning and Development’s May 4 finding that affirms the Port of Seattle cannot serve as a homeport for Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet under its current shoreline permit. While separate from the lawsuit, the City’s finding would, if upheld, require the Port to obtain a new shoreline permit for the homeport, which would require environmental review. The City has issued a notice of shoreline permit violation to the Port and Foss, but put further enforcement on hold until after the hearing examiner has ruled. The Port of Seattle and Foss Maritime sought to block environmental groups from entering the case to defend the City’s finding. On May 22, 2015, the Washington Department of Natural Resources informed Shell that mooring large drill rigs at Terminal 5 for extended periods of time likely violates state constitutional prohibitions on blocking navigation in water highways, like the West Waterway where the Polar Pioneer is moored. On May 27, 2015, King County denied a waste disposal permit for the Shell homeport facility.