Royal Dutch Shell has insisted that it is going to press ahead this year with its plans to continue its high cost, high risk hunt for oil in the U.S. Arctic Ocean this year (aka the world’s most obvious unburnable carbon).
While its plan still rests on some outstanding permits from the federal government that have been highly contentious, Shell has kept busy making plans to ensure it can press play immediately if it gets a federal stamp of approval. This has included a secretly negotiated deal to park their Arctic drilling fleet at the Port of Seattle.
The deal was negotiated quietly between the Port Commission and Foss, the company that supplies and deals with Shell’s Arctic fleet, and when it became public it was met with understandable outcry from citizens, members of municipal government, and even members of the Port Commission itself who had been demanding (unsuccessfully) more space for public comment and transparency.
But suddenly, facing a suite of new headwinds, the deal doesn’t seem like such a sure thing.
To be clear, the problem with Shell’s Arctic fleet is that it is the infrastructure to hunt for oil that we simply cannot afford to burn if we want any hope for a safe climate (not to mention the incredibly high risks of Arctic drilling, especially for a company whose Arctic track record reads like a bad joke). A recent study published in Nature was definitive: Arctic oil is off limits. It is 100% unburnable. We are living in a time when we know from conclusive science that somewhere around ¾ of the fossil fuels we already know about have to stay underground. How then can it possibly be justifiable to go out and keeping looking for more?
But Shell will be Shell and Big Oil will be Big Oil – their destructive business model insists on expanding their reserves of unburnable carbon (and putting their shareholders at frighteningly high risk of losing massive amounts of money in stranded assets). Big Oil is not going to voluntarily decide to abandon its hunt for oil; it is up to governments, regulations, and most importantly people power, to stop them.
And Seattle is fertile ground for exactly this kind of people power. The city is notorious for its sustainability efforts (even the Port of Seattle’s mission is, “Where a sustainable world is headed,” – TBC just how hypocritical that is) and its rich organizing history. The opposition hasn’t wasted a moment. If you ask me, Shell doesn’t stand much of a chance.
The Port Commission has the power to rescind the Shell lease, and just yesterday the Mayor and Council responded to public outcry and internal concerns and called for a review of Shell’s docking permits. This followed a lawsuit filed last week by a coalition of environmental organizations against the Port’s decision. Today, the Port Commission will have to face public concerns head on in a public meeting, and you can bet that the message is going to be clear: Seattle wants nothing to do with Shell’s climate destruction in the Arctic.
Long story short? Not so fast, Shell.
If you happen to be in Seattle – the details for today’s Port Commission meeting can be found here.
Otherwise, you can still have your say from afar by taking the lead from local organizers here.