Seattle Enters Drilling Fracas

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Council members join activists in example of local action against Big Oil.

Law enforcement detained dozens of protesters Monday for trying to block a Royal Dutch Shell PLC oil rig from departing the Port of Seattle for drilling off Alaska—the latest development in a weekslong standoff in which environmental activists have been joined by an unusual ally: the city itself.

Monday’s action took place after the Polar Pioneer and its support vessels attempted to leave the port about 6 a.m. to begin exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea and were intercepted by protesters in kayaks, Coast Guard officials said.

About two dozen people were detained, including Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien, as more activists prepared to try to block the 400-by-292-foot drilling vessel from reaching the open sea, said Coast Guard Lt. Dana Warr. Lt. Warr said the agency is enforcing a 500-yard safety zone around the vessel, and that violators face misdemeanor citations.

Shell officials said that while they respect the rights of drilling opponents to express their view, “we only ask that they do so safely and within the boundaries of the law.”

Mayor Ed Murray and the council launched a challenge to the permit that allowed Shell’s equipment to be stored and serviced at the port before the planned drilling. The Democratic mayor is concerned the drilling will add to global warming.

“The expansion of what I think is an antiquated [energy] policy is bad,” said Mr. Murray in an interview. “I used the only leverage I had.”

The opposition from the mayor and a united City Council has drawn criticism from port officials and others who say rejection of Shell’s plans could cost the city jobs and harm its reputation with businesses.

Seattle is the latest jurisdiction in the U.S. to try to use its clout against Big Oil. Several have banned fracking, including Denton, Texas, and Mora County, N.M. In California, San Jose, Oxnard and Moorpark are among cities that have sent letters or passed resolutions against a proposed oil-train terminal in San Luis Obispo County, citing safety concerns among other factors.

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