Port of Seattle Case Study: How Local Climate Action Impacts Global Challenges

This thoughtful opinion piece by KC Golden, a leader widely recognized for his lifetime of work in shaping climate and clean energy policies and communication strategies, inspires us to think about the wide-reaching power of our local decisions to impact people all over America, and the world.

Last month’s under-the-radar decision by Seattle’s Port Commission – to use its “Green Gateway” waterfront as the base for Shell Oil’s controversial drilling within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge waters of Alaska’s Chukchi Sea – kicked off an all-out fight about its conflict of interest with the core values of Seattle’s communities. And now a coalition of environmental groups is suing the Port for violating the law by bypassing the required environmental review and the public process which allows for people to speak their minds about Arctic drilling.

“You can understand the Port’s reluctance to grapple with climate impacts,” says KC Golden. “We can all relate to the sense that this issue is above our pay grade.”  But he challenges us to think about what we can do – personally and collectively – to solve the climate challenges facing us today. As the Port of Seattle conflict illustrates, we need our leaders to involve their local communities in open conversation about decisions that affect them. We need them to act responsibly to prudently steward our natural resources and to protect our health, safety, and security. And we need them to ensure that investment decisions are aligned with our public interest. 

The bottom line here is that although we may not individually have the power to impact national climate policy decisions, each and every one of us can choose to affect policies within our local communities. In staying true to our values, we can hope that others will be inspired to follow our lead. And as KC Golden suggests, we can be proud to answer our children’s inevitable question: “What did you do when you had a chance?”

Guest opinion: Will Seattle take a stand on, or a cut of the Arctic drilling action?

By KC Golden | Crosscut | February 19, 2015

Not long ago, Seattle’s business, environmental, labor, education and multicultural leaders, led by the Chamber of Commerce, crafted a “Shared Regional Vision of Sustainable Prosperity”. The Port of Seattle embraced this vision, branding itself the Green Gateway, and celebrating its “commitment to be a model of sustainable growth, to seek the greatest environmental benefit from our efforts, to see our sustainable practices as a competitive advantage…”

It’s not just green fluff. The community and the Port are working hard to deliver on these commitments, and prospering because of them.

So why are we rolling out the green carpet for an Arctic oil drilling fleet?! What the Shell?

You’d think the Emerald City would be the last to bite when Big Oil offers a cut of the deal on a dangerous, climate-destroying Arctic drilling scheme. But the Port swallowed it hook, line, and drilling rig. Port CEO Ted Fick signed a lease last week that would make Seattle the staging area for the most reckless, extreme oil drilling adventure ever.

But, but … what about the likelihood of devastating impacts on the very Arctic ecosystems President Obama just protected? Not our problem, said Port CEO Ted Fick in his letter rebuffing the citizen groups calling for environmental review. Such matters, said Fick, “are outside the Port’s authority.”

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