Morning Fizz

Murray Uses City Authority to Halt Shell Oil

Caffeinated news featuring Murray vs. Shell, Okamoto plus council, and a peaceful protest

By Josh Feit May 4, 2015

Caffeinated News

1. At this morning's annual Climate Solutions breakfast at the Westin hotel, mayor Ed Murray announced that he's using city authority to halt Shell Oil from docking its oil rigs at the Port of Seattle's terminal five. For now.

Back in March, Murray announced that the city's Department of Planning and Development (DPD) was reviewing whether or not Shell's plans to moor oil rigs there fell outside allowable uses under city permitting.

This morning Murray said: "Today DPD will release findings on terminal five. [They] have found that the moorage of drilling equipment falls outside the current permit.... They must apply for a new permit."

Murray added, "It doesn't stop [Shell], but it gives the Port a chance for a pause."

After his speech Murray told me he hopes the Port will "use this to walk back their decision" to have Shell dock at the port: "The community has spoken out against this." Murray said having Shell dock oil rigs at the port "doesn't represent who we are.... We want our city to build  the economy of the future not the economy of the past." 

Murray says DPD found that oil rigs do not meet the current use permits for the Port "and I concur."

He concluded: "I don't want oil drilling rigs in the city of Seattle." The port, the mayor said, would have to reapply. "We'll see what they do."

The mayor's best hope for stopping Shell from mooring at the Port is that the Port doesn't reapply—because if it simply reapplies under different permitting, it's likely for a broader permit (currently just a cargo load and unload permit) that would accommodate the oil rigs, and DPD wouldn't have any leeway to turn them down.

The mayor's gambit here is to spotlight the Port in the hope that it sides with environmentalists. 


DPD released its report; it concludes: "An additional use permit is required for the proposed seasonal moorage at the Port of Seattle's Terminal 5 facility of a drilling rig and accompanying tugboats.

Port spokesman Peter McGraw says the port is still reviewing DPD's "interpretation."

Mayor Murray realeased an official statement, saying: “This is an opportunity for the port and all of us to make a bold statement about how oil companies contribute to climate change, oil spills and other environmental disasters – and reject this short-term lease.” Framing oil as a thing of the past, Murray also said it was time to "turn the page" on the fossil fuel economy, concluding: "It’s time to focus on the economy of the future: electric cars and transit, green homes and environmentally progressive businesses."

Foss Maritime, the company that leases Terminal Five, issued a defiant statement this afternoon, casting Murray as an enemy of the local maritime ecnomy. 

Foss Maritime has a lease with the Port of Seattle to operate a portion of Terminal 5. During the negotiation of that lease, Foss had extensive discussions of its planned activities there, including the moorage of the Polar Pioneer and other vessels.
Port management agreed that those activities were allowed under Terminal 5’s existing permit, which was issued by the city in the 1990s, so Foss entered into the lease in good faith.
On Monday morning, Mayor Ed Murray suggested that the activity is not consistent with the permit. This is a dispute between the city and the port.
Foss intends to continue work at Terminal 5 under our lease with the Port regardless of the mayor’s comments.
The Mayor’s action also raises grave concerns about his stated commitment to Seattle’s thriving maritime community. By giving a small but vocal group the ability to jeopardize the commercial relationships between our local maritime businesses and the Port of Seattle, the Mayor is casting serious doubt on the future of the city’s working waterfront.

"The moorage of drilling equipment falls outside the current permit." —Ed Murray2. John Okamoto, the former Port of Seattle administrator, Teachers' Union leader, and most recently interim human services director, will deliver his confirmation speech as a new (temporary) city council member this afternoon.

After besting 43 applicants (and seven other finalists, including runner up union and civil rights leader Sharon Maeda), Okamoto was appointed to fill Sally Clark's spot last week after Clark resigned in mid April to take a job as the UW's director of community relations.

Okamoto, widely identified as mayor Ed Murray's top choice, was appointed only after council member Kshama Sawant—one of the three minority no votes—caused a stir by denouncing Okamoto in dramatic terms ("cesspool of corruption") for his time at the Port in the mid 2000s when a state audit found fraud, accused him of being a corporatist (despite his five-and-a-half year stint as the head of the state teachers' union), and said it would be "scandalous" if her colleagues picked him.

Watch for Okamoto to reach out to Sawant by name today by saying he wants to work with her to address homelessness and public health issues (Okamoto is taking Clark's spot on the King County Board of Health, where Sawant is also a member). Okamoto, in a speech that's likely to highlight common interests and collaboration, will surely also name-check his other new colleagues and their issues such as transportation committee chair Tom Rasmussen, land use committee chair Mike O'Brien (who's taking the lead on affordable housing issues), and public safety committee chair Bruce Harell.

Given Okamoto's history with the Washington Education Association, watch for Okamoto to make a special pitch on education funding too.

Okamoto, who's Japanese American and whose parents were forced into American internment camps during WWII, is also sure to speak about Asian American heritage.

3. After Friday's peaceful May Day march downtown morphed after dark into police flash bangs, rubber bullets, and pepper spray versus vandalism fires, bottles, rocks, and window smashing (longtime local lefty writer and commentator Geov Parrish succinctly quipped on Facebook, "This is masturbation, not protest... Enough already"), a couple of peaceful #BlackLivesMatter marches, in camaraderie with the protests in Baltimore, hit the streets on Saturday afternoon.

There were some disagreements between the marchers and SPD, who biked alongside the combined 130 demonstrators, about the route, but the marchers, who separately started at 23rd and Union and the Rainier Beach Community Center—stood their ground and eventually staged a merged sit in at MLK and Rainier Avenue South.  

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