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Port of Seattle Back in Court Over Oil-Rig Homeport

Shell's Polar Pioneer drilling rig arrived in the Seattle area to protests, and left Elliott Bay in mid-June. Credit: Jeff Dunnicliffe for The Backbone Campaign/Flickr.
Shell's Polar Pioneer drilling rig arrived in the Seattle area to protests, and left Elliott Bay in mid-June. Credit: Jeff Dunnicliffe for The Backbone Campaign/Flickr.
July 30, 2015

SEATTLE – It's back to court on Friday for the Port of Seattle, and conservation groups that contend the port commissioners didn't conduct an environmental assessment before signing a lease to allow repair of oil-drilling rigs at the port.

The groups maintain the water pollution risks are obvious, and that the last environmental review for expanding the port's Terminal 5 had covered increasing container cargo traffic – not mooring an Arctic drilling fleet there.

Attorney Patti Goldman with Earthjustice represents the groups and says they're asking the judge to vacate the lease between the Port of Seattle and Shell Oil contractor Foss Maritime.

"If that happens, then it wipes the slate clean and the port can proceed the way it should have all along – with disclosure to the public, with analysis of the effects, obtaining public input and then, making a decision," she explains.

The lawsuit was filed in March in King County Superior Court. The case has received national attention as part of another controversial issue – the environmental effects of oil exploration in the Arctic Ocean.

With other, potentially more profitable uses for shipping terminals, Goldman says Northwest port cities don't have to agree to be part of that.

"It's bringing Arctic drilling to places where people do not want to support that,” she stresses. “And they're very alarmed at what happens if you have an oil spill in the Arctic, and what happens in terms of climate impacts if that oil is actually produced and burned."

Just last week, Shell was granted the last two federal permits required to begin Arctic drilling.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA