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Can The Shell Rig Come Back? Examiner Reconsiders City Decision

Shell’s Polar Pioneer, briefly a resident at the Port of Seattle's Terminal 5,  is drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea. The question is whether the rig can return to Seattle this fall -- and whether it can stay the winter. 

The Port of Seattle and Foss Maritime Co. are appealing a city decision to try to stop the rig. A city examiner is hearing arguments about what should happen next.

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

At issue is whether keeping an oil rig through the winter is the proper use of a cargo terminal. The city and environment groups say no. But the port says it has the right to keep ships anywhere on its property, and it doesn’t want the city interfering in its business.

Many organizations sprang to action this spring when people learned Seattle would be the home of Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet. The state’s Department of Natural Resources called the rig’s location unconstitutional, but the wording appeared vague. The state's attorney general has yet to say whether he supports DNR's interpretation.  

Environment groups like the Sierra Club ran to court to get a judge to agree to an environmental review, but lost in July. 

All of this makes the Port and Foss Maritime's appeal against the planning department the case to watch.  The hearing will continue until the end of the week and may resume on August 24. The examiner’s decision is expected to take three weeks after the final date.

The Polar Pioneer is expected back in Seattle sometime in October.