The number of people who attended todays port commission meeting exceeded capacity of the room. Others watched a live feed in chairs set up outside the chamber.
The number of people who attended today's port commission meeting exceeded capacity of the room. Others watched a live feed in chairs set up outside the chamber. Alex Garland

After a packed, five-hour port commission meeting, four out of five port commissioners finally decided what to do about Shell's Arctic drilling fleet in Seattle. The port will appeal the city's decision that Arctic drilling equipment shouldn't be at Terminal 5, but it will also ask Foss, the company leasing the space for Shell, to delay servicing the rigs "pending further legal review."

So how's that going to affect Foss helping Shell in Elliott Bay? "It's not going to affect us at all," Foss Maritime president and CEO Paul Stevens told The Stranger.

Yup.

Now, two things happen:

The port will appeal the city's decision to Seattle's Hearing Examiner—separately from the already-announced Foss appeal—and the Hearing Examiner will then decide whether the city's stand against Arctic drilling equipment in Terminal 5 is correct. If the city is right, the port has preserved the option to hit the emergency ejection button on Foss and Shell—but possibly after a month of allowing Foss to "cure" the problem. In the meantime, Foss plans to have Shell in Elliott Bay anyway.

In sum, perhaps nothing changes in the near-term. Foss prepares Shell for the Arctic while the port and the city spend weeks tangling in an appeal process. Eventually, if port loses its appeal, it can kick Foss and Shell out. But will Shell already be on its way to the Arctic by then?

Here's a statement from Mayor Ed Murray:

I commend the Port Commission for deciding that the arrival of an off-shore drilling rig should be delayed until the proper permits are in place. I now hope Shell will respect the wishes of the Port, the City and the community at large, and not bring an off-shore drilling rig into Elliott Bay.

Good luck hoping Shell "respects" a weak and puzzling gesture from the port—one that shouldn't be viewed as a challenge to the city, according to the port commission, but a question seeking clarification.

Science tells us that we cannot burn what's lying beneath Arctic waters if we want to avert dangerous climate change. The Feds have agreed that a 75 percent chance of a major oil spill is likely over the next 77 years if Arctic oil and gas development goes forward. President Obama said that national interest would not be served if the Keystone XL pipeline "significantly exacerbated the problem of carbon pollution," but apparently the same logic does not hold true for Shell's pursuits in the Arctic.

Today's port commission meeting was an exercise in watching these enormous, long-term concerns shrink to fit the size of the oil and maritime industries' worries about immediate profit margins and temporary jobs. If the port didn't already view both as equal, its actions today favored the latter over the former.

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One port commissioner, Courtney Gregoire, was not present at the meeting because of medical issues in the last stages of her pregnancy, but she did submit a statement opposing the motion to appeal the city's decision. She did not, however, vote. Gregoire's statement contained language about wishing the port's first motion—about asking Foss to delay the rigs—could have been more forceful about defaulting Foss from the lease. But at the meeting, port counsel Traci Goodwin told the port commissioners that would not have been legally advisable.

Here are the two motions (6a and 6b) the port passed. The first score: 3-1, with Commissioner Bill Bryant opposing. The second: unanimous.

The Noble Discoverer, one of Shell's rigs, pulled into Everett tonight. Activists' planned "festival of resistance" will still begin this weekend.