Port Commissioner Tom Albro apologized to the thousands of people who wrote to him over the ports Shell decision. Not good enough. Whats he going to do about it now?
Port Commissioner Tom Albro apologized to the thousands of people who wrote to him about the port's Shell decision. Not good enough. What's he going to do about it now? Don Wilson/Port of Seattle

If Shell finds oil in the Arctic this summer, we're looking at likely disaster. Not only is there a 75 percent chance of a spill if drilling goes forward, but—as I've harped on many, many times before (I don't care if you're sick of it!)—recent research shows that all Arctic oil and gas should be considered "unburnable" if we don't want to push the earth into dangerous and irreparable climate change territory.

In February, Seattle's five elected port officials decided to enable Arctic drilling by allowing this city's port to become the off-season base for Shell's Arctic drilling fleet. All five of them are culpable, even though three of them actively encouraged the homeport while two didn't do enough to fight it.

Commissioner Tom Albro falls into the latter category.

Albro is a small business-minded Republican who's served on the port commission since 2010. He doesn't have the best environmental record there, though hardly any of the port commissioners have great environmental records. Environmentalists have criticized Albro for killing a solid resolution to clean up the port's diesel truck pollution in 2010. They were also dismayed when Albro objected to an agreement to clean up pollution from cruise lines in 2012.

But Albro hasn't taken as much campaign money from companies involved with the Shell deal as some of his pro-Shell homeport colleagues. He did receive $650 from Saltchuk Resources, parent company of Foss Maritime, the lessee turning over the port terminal to Shell. He also took $3,100 from Marine Resources Group (the company that would become Foss Marine Holdings), and $225 from Andrew Stephens, the former vice president of shipyards and engineering at Foss Maritime. Compared to Bill Bryant and John Creighton's campaign contributions over the years, that's chump change.

And it's clear that something about the Shell deal did genuinely rankle Albro. He opposed hosting the Arctic drilling fleet from the beginning, according to his colleague John Creighton. And, at the one public meeting the port held about the Shell deal, Albro was the only official to bring forward a motion that could have stalled or denied the lease for an Arctic drilling homeport.

Albro's motion failed. No one seconded it, not even Courtney Gregoire, who, like Albro, says she opposes Arctic drilling. Gregoire said that Albro's motion was far too broad. It asked to require the commission's approval for all short-term leases at the terminal where Shell's Arctic fleet was meant to stay.

So why didn't Albro come up with a more specific motion? Or why didn't Gregoire second an overly broad motion anyway, annoying-factor-be-damned? We may never know. Albro and Gregoire may not have had the votes to deny the lease at that time, but they did have the power to bring the decision to a vote. And technically, that didn't even happen.

What the hell?

Late last month, Albro told The Stranger that he had received thousands of e-mails about the port's decision. He sent out a form letter response that apologized for his failure. "To state it mildly, I am not pleased with the Commission's recent decision to move forward with Foss/Shell use of Terminal 5," Albro wrote. "Going forward I will actively press for Commission adoption of practical policies that guide staff to business deals that both align with our public values and serve middle-class job growth for our city, region, and state."

Nope. Not good enough. No one's going to care about whatever nice-sounding green principles the port puts in place after it enables one of the most dangerous and destructive commercial pursuits of our times.

So here's what Albro can do instead: He can force the issue to another vote. He can bring forward a motion to rescind the lease. He can bring forward a motion to write to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and ask her not to let Shell drill this summer. Albro can do all of the above, and that way he won't have to apologize again for offering a weak alternative.

Seattle City Council members are now asking the city to investigate the port's Shell decision. Meanwhile, you can ask Albro to further investigate his Shell-stopping options.

Reach Tom Albro at albro.t@portseattle.org. You can reach other port commissioners at the bottom of this post, and Sally Jewell here.

Next up: Commissioner Courtney Gregoire.