In the end one battle over Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling effort came down to the Websters New Collegiate Dictionary’s definition of “good.”
A Seattle hearing examiner gave the Port of Seattle, Foss Maritime and Shell a victory Wednesday by deciding that materials loaded onto Shell’s ships at Terminal 5 met that definition.
So the city has lost its battle to use the code governing port operations to deny Shell a supply base on Puget Sound.
Whether Shell actually ever uses that base again is uncertain – it said this week that it was pulling out of exploration of northern Alaska because of disappointing results and government regulation.
The battle began when the city’s planning department decided earlier this year that under city code Terminal 5 was meant for use as a “cargo terminal” and that Shell’s use didn’t fit.
But on Wednesday, a decision signed by deputy hearing examiner Anne Watanabe said the agency erred by incorrectly limiting the definition of “good” (as in "goods"):
The materials loaded on the Polar Pioneer and other vessels at Terminal 5 met the Websters New Collegiate Dictionary definition of “good,” including the definitions relied on by (the department). … Thus, quantities of “goods” were brought to Terminal 5 for loading onto subject vessels, including “provisions” for crew, which would meet the definition as well.
The decision concluded that “activities conducted by Foss Maritime at Terminal 5 for the Polar Pioneer and its support vessels are cargo terminal uses” under the city code.
The Northwest Seaport Alliance, which includes the Seattle and Tacoma ports, pronounced itself “pleased.”
Mayor Ed Murray pronounced himself “disappointed” but said “I will respect the ruling.”
He noted that Shell was ending its Arctic offshore exploration and said he hoped to mend rifts with the port, Foss and “other maritime interests to build a vibrant future for our harbor.”
Read the full decision below or see a PDF version here.