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Shell Oil's Polar Pioneer left the Port of Seattle for Alaska on the morning of June 15, 2015.
KUOW Photo/Brian Gregory

Protesters in kayaks dogged Royal Dutch Shell’s huge oil drilling rig Polar Pioneer as it sailed out of Seattle’s Elliott Bay early Monday on a long voyage to the Arctic Ocean.

Dozens used kayaks to form lines in front of the 300-foot-tall rig as it left under heavy Coast Guard escort.

The Clean Energy Governor And The Columbia River Oil Refinery

Jun 7, 2015

A new oil refinery is the last thing you might expect Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's administration to be courting. After all, Inslee has developed a national reputation as a champion of curbing the use of fossil fuels.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it has found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — has led to widespread pollution of drinking water. The oil industry and its backers welcome the long-awaited study, while environmental groups criticize it.

The Polar Pioneer and hundreds of kayaking protesters on Seattle's Duwamish Waterway on May 16, 2015.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Shell Oil has rejected state officials' position that parking an Arctic oil rig at the Port of Seattle's Terminal 5 violates the state constitution.

Shell's Polar Pioneer rig has been at the port since mid-May. Its arrival in environmentally-minded Seattle has sparked protest and government scrutiny at various levels.

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

State officials said Friday that it's unconstitutional for Shell Oil to store its Arctic drilling rig at the Port of Seattle's Terminal 5.

The Polar Pioneer oil rig in Terminal 5 at the Port of Seattle.
KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Marcie Sillman talks to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray about the Shell Arctic drilling rig newly docked at the Port of Seattle.

Tesoro Announces Rail Car Upgrades

May 19, 2015

Oil company Tesoro announced Monday it’s upgrading the fleet of tank cars it uses to carry crude oil by rail.

The company moves crude oil by train through the Pacific Northwest to its refinery in Anacortes, Washington.

Officials with the company said it will add 210 “enhanced” tank cars. According to Tesoro executives, the new tank cars exceed federal standards announced earlier this month.

John Ryan / KUOW

Seattle planning officials say the Arctic drill rig at the Port of Seattle has to leave or get a new permit by June 4. 

The city issued a notice of violation to the Port of Seattle, Shell Oil and Foss Maritime on Monday afternoon.

The notice says the port's permit is only good for cargo ships, not oil rigs like the Polar Pioneer.

Foss Maritime tugs pull the Polar Pioneer past downtown Seattle on the way to Terminal 5 on Thursday, May 14, 2015.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Environmental activists in kayaks paddled into the middle of Seattle's Elliott Bay  on Thursday afternoon to meet -- or, as they say, "un-welcome" -- a huge Shell oil rig.

The arrival of the Polar Pioneer could raise the stakes in the battle over Shell's oil exploration plans in the remote Arctic Ocean.  

Seattle City Council members heard testimony on a resolution Tuesday urging the Port of Seattle to reconsider its controversial decision to host Shell Oil’s Arctic drill rigs.

The resolution warns that allowing Shell to use Terminal 5 in West Seattle will cause “disruption, division and direct conflict with the Port’s stated values and policies.”

The Polar Pioneer at Port Angeles last spring.
kuow photo/gil aegerter

The city of Seattle said Monday that a new permit is needed for Shell Oil's Arctic drilling fleet to dock at Terminal 5, a stance that could bring more conflict with the port.

Oil trains are getting stronger tank cars, better brakes, slower speed limits and possibly new routes. Many in the Northwest say that’s still not enough.

Northwest emergency responders have complained about receiving little information about oil train movement through their community. They’re about to get even less.

Oregon’s U.S. senators want to put a $175 fee on each older model railroad tank car used to ship flammable oil.

Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley joined four other Democrats in introducing a bill Thursday that would create a surcharge on each DOT-111, a tank car model known to be flawed and puncture-prone.

Commissioners at the Port of Vancouver voiced their support Tuesday for a rail safety bill introduced in the U.S. Senate late last month.

All three commissioners voted in favor of a resolution supporting the Crude-By-Rail Safety Act of 2015.

The bill was drafted by Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, and aims to improve rail safety by requiring national standards for moving crude oil by rail.

Oil Train Safety Legislation Passes In Washington

Apr 25, 2015

Olympia -- State lawmakers gave final approval Friday to a bill meant to increase oil train safety.

The bill was taken up in response to the uptick in oil train traffic in the region. It directs oil taxes to help pay for oil-train spill response. It also imposes public disclosure requirements for railroad companies operating in Washington.

Shell's oil rig Kulluk became stranded in Kodiak, Alaska two years ago. This photo of the stranded vessel  was taken  Jan. 7, 2013.
Flickr Photo/U.S. Pacific Command (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks to Alexandra Gutierrez, reporter for Alaska Public Radio, about the resolution scolding Washington for protesting the Shell Artic drilling rig's arrival to Washington waters amid serious budget talks.

Shell Arctic Drilling Rig Expected In Port Angeles

Apr 16, 2015

Shell Oil’s Arctic drilling rig, the Polar Pioneer, is expected to arrive Friday in Port Angeles, Washington.

Shell has just received the necessary federal permits to drill for oil in the Arctic and will be staging its fleet in Seattle, despite a lawsuit filed by environmental groups and an investigation launched by the Seattle City Council.

Activists have warned of a flotilla of kayaks that would extend a less-than-warm welcome to Shell when it arrives at the Port of Seattle.

Oil Refinery Could Be Built In Longview Or Elsewhere In The Northwest

Apr 16, 2015

An energy company says it's looking at several locations in Oregon and Washington as potential sites for what could be the West Coast’s first crude oil refinery in more than 25 years.

Riverside Energy Inc. CEO Louis J. Soumas said Wednesday his company has engaged in discussions with a variety of locations in the two states in its pursuit of a place to build such a facility.

Refinery Proposed Last Year For Columbia River, Records Show

Apr 15, 2015

Washington's Port of Longview says it is in talks with an energy company that last year submitted plans for a crude oil refinery on the Columbia River.

Details of the company's planned refinery surfaced Wednesday through public records obtained and released by Columbia Riverkeeper.

Ross Reynolds talks to Vaughn Palmer, columnist with the Vancouver Sun, about the controversy around an oil spill in Vancouver's English Bay.

Washington Oil Train And Pipeline Safety Bill Advances

Apr 15, 2015

The Washington House gave its approval Tuesday to a bill that would set higher oil train safety standards.

The bill is moving through the state Legislature as more trains are hauling crude oil through Washington from the Bakken region of North Dakota and from Canada's tar sands. The bill imposes a per-barrel tax of 8 cents on oil that arrives in Washington by train or pipeline. The revenue would pay for spill-related emergency response and preparedness.

The Swinomish Tribe has filed a lawsuit against BNSF Railway to stop oil trains from traveling through its reservation.

BNSF train tracks cross the top of the Swinomish Reservation in Skagit County. In recent years they’ve been used to move oil from North Dakota to two refineries in Anacortes.

'Small' Oil Spills Can Add Up To Big Costs

Mar 23, 2015

State Fish and Wildlife Biologist Brian McDonald is careful not to raise his voice as he approaches a row of baby cribs in a warehouse in Pasco, Washington. Each one holds mallard ducks.

“They’re typically in pretty rough shape--they’re sick, they’re cold, they’re oiled, they’re hungry,” he says.

SEATTLE -- Port officials are standing behind their controversial decision to host Shell Oil's Arctic drilling fleet, despite protests, legal action and a city-led investigation.

The Port of Seattle signed a lease earlier this month that has caused a stir among some citizens and elected officials. At a public meeting Tuesday the port's commissioners got an earful when they opened the floor to testimony about their decision to lease Terminal 5 to Foss Maritime, which will then host Shell Oil's Arctic drilling fleet.

What happens when the price of oil tanks and suddenly you're faced with a whole lot less money to deal with your town's explosive growth?

If you're 52-year-old Rick Norby, you lose a lot of sleep.

"I haven't slept since I became mayor," he says. "I really ain't kidding you."

When Norby became mayor of Sidney, Mont., oil prices were about $100 a barrel. A year later, they've fallen to roughly half that. Yet oil production has continued to churn right along.

How Big Of A Risk Are Oil Trains?

Mar 6, 2015
oil train, transportation
Flickr Photo/Russ Allison Loar (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/aqtNAn

Ross Reynolds speaks with Lisa Copeland, of the Washington State Department of Ecology, about the risk oil trains could pose to the state.

Also, Reynolds speaks to Kevin Book, an analyst from ClearView Energy Partners in Washington, D.C, and with Kristen Boyles, attorney for environmental law firm Earth Justice, about the implications of oil trains in our region.

Northwest Officials Unite Against Coal And Oil Trains

Mar 4, 2015

More than 150 elected officials from across the Northwest have teamed up to speak out against coal and oil trains. Their new group, the Safe Energy Leadership Alliance, held its third meeting in Portland Tuesday.

Washington's King County Executive Dow Constantine has stepped up to chair the group. It includes officials from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and British Columbia.

President Obama has vetoed the KeystoneXL Pipeline, but as more oil moves through the Northwest by rail, one Republican state senator says a pipeline through Washington state could be a solution.

Rep. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane has introduced legislation that would provide $250,000 to study a possible oil pipeline through Washington state.

The pipeline would move oil from the middle of the country to refineries and terminals on the Washington coast.

Protesters of the Keystone Pipeline in San Francisco, Calif., in November 2013.
Flickr Photo/Enviros (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks to Vaughn Palmer, columnist for the Vancouver Sun, about the news from Canada, including Canada's response over President Obama's veto of the Keystone XL Pipeline and terrorist threats to Canadian malls.

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