Shell’s Arctic Drilling Rig Gets Cold Reception in Seattle

Environmentalists in kayaks intercepted the massive drilling platform in what could be a long, hot summer of protests in the Pacific Northwest.

(Photo: Twitter)

May 14, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Todd Woody is TakePart's editorial director, environment.

On Thursday, three days after the Obama administration gave Shell Oil permission to drill in the Arctic Ocean this summer, a giant oil rig leased by the company steamed into Seattle to be outfitted to explore for petroleum in the treacherous waters of the Chukchi Sea.

The arrival of the 307-foot-tall, 400-foot-wide Polar Pioneer was greeted by a flotilla of protesters in kayaks who held aloft a sign that read “Arctic Drilling = Climate Chaos,” crisscrossing the path of the giant rig as tugs slowly towed it to port.

Shell will conduct exploratory drilling in a stretch of the Arctic Ocean 85 miles northwest of Wainwright, Alaska, that is home to endangered polar bears, whales, ice seals, and Pacific walruses.

(Photo: KOMO 4 TV)

In a New York Times opinion piece published on Tuesday, climate activist Bill McKibben slammed the Obama administration’s provisional approval of Shell’s plans to drill in a region of the Earth most affected by global warming. “It’s as if the tobacco companies were applying for permission to put cigarette machines in cancer wards,” he wrote.

(Photo: KOMO 4 TV)

Shell is using Seattle as a staging ground for its Arctic fleet, triggering protests that promise to escalate as the summer drilling season approaches. Seattle’s mayor is opposed to Shell’s plans, and the city contends a contractor preparing the drilling fleet lacks a valid permit to perform the work.