Port of Seattle Shell Lease

I’ve decided to make a couple changes to the blog, starting today.

First, I’m going to include posts on political topics, especially having to do with climate change.

Second, I’m going to include more short, personal, spontaneous posts about what I happen to be reading at the moment.

In keeping with the first change, here’s what I wrote to the Port of Seattle Commissioners after attending the hearing on the lease to Foss Maritime, which will sublease to Shell for its Arctic drilling operation.

Dear Port Commissioners,

I am a 25-year Seattle resident, a homeowner, taxpayer, teacher, proud union member, and a parent. I am writing to express my alarm and outrage that the Port has agreed to lease space at terminal 5 to a customer who we know will sublease it to Shell to support its Arctic drilling.

Climate change is literally threatening our survival on this planet. It is unconscionable that our community would do anything to facilitate that process. There is no economic justification whatsoever for helping make our world uninhabitable for our children. Yet that is what the Port has done.

I am also deeply disturbed at the undemocratic way the Port handled this issue, which a moment’s thought would tell you would arouse intense opposition. The token attempts at public notice were fig leaves on a process that was plainly not intended to encourage community input.

Finally, I’m profoundly disappointed that the Port’s response to nearly four hours of public testimony, the overwhelming majority of which was opposed to the lease, was to say, in essence, that it’s too late to do anything about it. A forward-looking, responsive Commission would have at least investigated the possibility of renegotiating the lease to address community concerns about Arctic drilling. Vague statements about not renewing the lease are simply inadequate. We don’t have two years to wait on this.

It’s been said that if we don’t lease to Shell, someone else will. By that logic, we should lease Port terminals to human traffickers, drug dealers, and toxic waste importers too. The truth is that these struggles are won one community at a time. Each community must decide where it stands; it is not our job to decide for others, or, worse, to let their presumed choices dictate ours. But if we stand for what we know is right, others will be inspired to follow our example.

It’s shocking that the Commission could be this out of touch with the values of the community it’s supposed to represent. It is imperative that the Port re-visit this issue and seek any and all avenues to preventing Shell from using our home as a base for destroying the planet.


Davis Oldham

One thought on “Port of Seattle Shell Lease

  1. P.S. After reading the NY Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/14/us/oil-company-lease-stirs-revolt-in-green-seattle.html) about the Port hearing last Tuesday, I wrote the following to the reporter:

    I have to take issue with your choice of words in one part of this article (“Oil Company Lease Stirs Revolt in Green Seattle”). To say that critics “point[ed] out the hypocrisy of protesters who had arrived to denounce Shell in vehicles running on gasoline” is, in effect, to endorse the critics’ point of view. It would be more appropriate to say that critics “accused” the protestors of hypocrisy, or some other language less definitive with respect to the truth claim involved in the criticism. As some of the protestors pointed out, they use gasoline because our society is structured in a way as to make that nearly unavoidable–including one protestor who offered specific evidence that the Port fails to facilitate commuting by bike. Others pointed out that they had arrived without the use of gasoline (by bike or electric vehicle). I myself came by mass transit. Living with contradiction is not the same as hypocrisy. If it were, we would all be hypocrites.

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