After Arctic Bust, Is Shell's Drilling Rig Headed Back To Seattle? | KUOW News and Information

After Arctic Bust, Is Shell's Drilling Rig Headed Back To Seattle?

Sep 28, 2015

Environmentalist are celebrating Shell’s decision to stop oil exploration off Alaska’s northern coast indefinitely, but the immediate future of the company’s base at the Port of Seattle is unclear.

A spokesman for Foss Maritime said the company didn’t know how Shell’s move would affect the operation at Terminal 5. Shell vice president of Arctic Maritime and Logistics Mark Guadagnini said this month that the company’s Polar Pioneer drilling rig would return to Terminal 5 to prep for 2016, but that was before this decision.

Shell said it had found indications of oil and gas but "not sufficient to warrant further exploration" in that area.

In its statement, Shell provided little guidance for what might happen at Terminal 5.

"Shell will now cease further exploration activity in offshore Alaska for the foreseeable future," the company said. "This decision reflects both the Burger J well result, the high costs associated with the project, and the challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment in offshore Alaska."

In May, the city of Seattle’s planning department threatened fines and a lawsuit when it learned the Polar Pioneer would be docked at a cargo terminal.

The Port and Foss appealed, and a city examiner heard arguments about what should happen next. That decision is pending.

Environmentalists went to court to try to force an environmental review but lost.

The arrival of the Polar Pioneer in May brought out an armada of “kayaktivists” who attempted to impede the rig’s arrival at Terminal 5. A similar scene greeted an icebreaker for Shell’s operation that was forced to limp to Portland for repairs.

On Monday, environmentalists cheered Shell’s decision.

Mitzi Simmons of Seattle said she was ecstatic about the news, calling this "a survival issue, for our very planet." She was among the kayakers who protested the Polar Pioneer's arrival in Seattle, and in an email to KUOW on Monday she promised that "kayaktivists" would respond if it returned. 

"We will be out in force to un-greet it," she said.

[View the story "Twitter Reacts: Shell To Cease Arctic Drilling " on Storify]