While May's "Paddle in Seattle" showdown with Shell's "climate bomb" made headline news, Seattle has not been a stranger to climate leadership over the years. Back in 2001, the Seattle City Council passed resolutions to adopt Kyoto emission reduction goals and committed its public utility, Seattle City Light, to shift to clean-energy sources. Then-Mayor Paul Schell words proved precient: “Cities are where most emissions occur — and where the solutions must begin. We can’t afford to wait for the federal government to do this.”
As reported in Greg Hanscom's Grist article, there have been some bumps along Seattle's path toward becoming a net-zero city, and a constant challenge of balancing the costs and benefits of various climate solutions. Greg Nickels, Schell’s successor as mayor, worked to build a coalition of 1,060 U.S. cities to attack the climate challenge collectively. In 2011, a road map for reducing Seattle’s emissions was released, followed by an aggressive Climate Action Plan (in 2013) which included solutions like: retrofitting buildings to meet new energy efficiency standards, concentrating homes and jobs withiin high-density areas, recycling and composting waste, and expanding focus on public transit, biking, and pedestrians. The city is proud of its innovative benchmarking program for tracking and reducing energy use in commerical buildings, and of its early leadership in swapping out coal- and gas-fired electricity for wind energy. Despite these successes, meeting its carbon emissions targets has proven difficult for Seattle as its population exploded (by nearly a quarter) since 1990. While per-person emissions have dropped 20 percent -- to about half the national average -- there is much more work to be done.
We thank the municipal leaders of Seattle, as well as other progressive-minded city leaders around our nation, for their continued dedication and focus on catalyzing local climate action. Thank you!
On May 13, the Polar Pioneer chugged determinedly across Puget Sound toward Seattle, ignoring requests from the mayor and port officials to stay away.
The Pioneer is a fourth-generation, semisubmersible drilling rig, designed by the Japanese firm Polar Hitachi and built in the shipyard in Ariake, Japan, to withstand some of the world’s harshest conditions. With a deck that is larger than two football fields, and a central derrick towering 33 stories above the waterline, the rig is capable of drilling in waters up to 1,640 feet deep, penetrating as far as 25,000 feet into the sea floor. Its quarry: A motherlode buried beneath the remote Chukchi Sea called the Burger Prospect that could, some believe, produce a million barrels of oil a day. Ann Pickard, Royal Dutch Shell’s executive vice president for the Arctic, calls the deposit simply “the prize.”
Shell plans to use Seattle as a base for a whole fleet of vessels bound for the Arctic when the ice breaks up, but the Emerald City is none too happy about harboring what the alt-weekly newspaper The Stranger dubbed a “climate bomb.” On May 4, Mayor Ed Murray announced that hosting the Polar Pioneer would violate the Port of Seattle’s land-use permit. The port asked Shell to stay away until the matter could be resolved. When neither of these actions slowed the rig’s advance, Seattleites sent out the local Navy: a couple hundred banner-waving activists aboard stand-up paddleboards and Life Saver-hued sea kayaks. They called it the Paddle in Seattle.
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