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KUOW: Concerns Arise That The Green Is Fading At Seattle’s Port

As the Port of Seattle joins with Tacoma to compete against other ports in British Columbia and California, concerns have arisen that it might be losing sight of some of key environmental goals, such as creating sustainable jobs.

The concerns come as Seattle moves forward with a controversial deal to temporarily host Royal Dutch Shell’s oil drilling fleet at terminal 5 in West Seattle.

Two rigs are headed for the Arctic later this summer, along with support vessels.  And the port says it needs the revenue from that lease to pay for upgrades to the terminal and keep it competitive – for Panamax ships and other things in the long haul.

At the same time, Seattle has joined forces with Tacoma to bring in more revenue from lots of other kinds of shippers – and that agreement, called the Seaport Alliance – has some environmentalists crying foul.

Fred Felleman is the Northwest consultant for Friends of the Earth and served on a port citizens’ committee to develop future goals.

“We’re going to be perfectly positioned to roll out the red carpet for Arctic exploitation – not for sustainable clean-green jobs that we worked so hard with the Century Agenda Committee to make our emphasis,”Fellemen said.

He says that Century Agenda is fading into the background.

Felleman has been watch-dogging the port for years. He’s also just joined the race for an open seat on the port commission.

He says the Seaport Alliance in and of itself is a positive milestone that should be celebrated. But he adds that too much emphasis is going to raising revenue to service debt on infrastructure upgrades.

The Port of Seattle says it’s not losing site of environmental goals, but the agreement submitted to the federal government is not the place for them.

Spokesman Peter McGraw points to a regional clean air strategy between the ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver BC.

“And we have seen solid reductions in diesel particulate matter and other emissions,” he said.

Last Friday, the ports of Seattle and Tacoma signed a milestone agreement that will be submitted federal regulators.

The seaport alliance allows them to jointly run the marine cargo terminals and market to customers together. It’s well regarded from most corners and widely expected to pass muster. Public comments on the plan are being accepted through mid-June, via this link.

But Fred Felleman says it doesn’t include key green gateway goals that were embraced in the Century Agenda for the Port of Seattle.

“And in this inter-local agreement they’ve signed, there’s no mention of striving to find sustainable jobs. It’s just maximizing return on investment,” he said.

Felleman says too much of the property taxes people in king and pierce counties are paying will service debt on big infrastructure. He is running for the Seattle Port Commission.

The Port says it’s not true that the federal agreement undermines green goals. Spokesman Peter McGraw points to the clean air strategy agreed to with Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver BC to reduce emissions. He says nothing in the federal agreement truly undermines those goals.




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