Allowing Shell oil rigs in Puget Sound waters risks contamination and spills during berthing and maintenance of vessels.

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That which happens locally often has a regional and even global impact, yet the editorial board of The Seattle Times would rather we ignore that fact when it comes to deciding whether to allow Shell Oil to dock its Arctic drilling ships in our great city’s Port. The Port of Seattle cannot emphasize maximizing profits without taking accountability for its actions and our hometown newspaper shouldn’t support such action.

Make no mistake: Allowing Shell to set up shop in Seattle enables its ability to drill in the Arctic. And for migratory birds of the Pacific Flyway, an area essential to migratory birds that range from Alaska to Mexico, a spill in Alaska is akin to an oil spill in Seattle.

But it’s not just about the birds. With more than 211 fish species and 26 marine mammals dependent on Puget Sound and the Salish Sea ecosystem, we and other environmental organizations cannot neglect the major contamination risk of serving as the home port for Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet.

As one of four litigants represented by Earthjustice against the Port of Seattle, the Seattle Audubon Society carefully considered our concerns with the Port’s lease, primarily those that affect Puget Sound waters. Seattle Audubon and our co-litigants are concerned about the direct effects to our local environment, including potential oil and chemical contamination during the transport, berthing and maintenance of oil-industry vessels in the Puget Sound.

We recognize that these vessels will not be transporting oil as cargo, but know there will be extensive quantities of oil and chemicals aboard for operational uses. The Noble Discoverer, a large drilling vessel coming to Terminal 5, and its owners are infamous for extensive pollution violations, felony offenses, hefty fines and disregard of appropriate standards of care and regulations.

If the Port had acknowledged that berthing and maintenance of oil-industry drilling vessels are fundamentally different from the previous Terminal 5 use of loading and unloading cargo carriers, it would not have been able to circumvent environmental review as it has done.

There is no doubt that there are significant, indirect threats from Arctic oil drilling to our region and to the world, one of which is climate change. Still, we are concerned with the direct effects of the Port of Seattle’s lease — the risk of an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean’s Chukchi Sea where Shell plans to drill.

Although the Port of Seattle has suggested that “stringent environmental protections” would be required of Shell, the Obama administration has stated in its environmental analysis that there is a 75 percent chance of one or more major oil spills if the Chukchi Sea is developed. There is no way to clean up such oil spills.

The Port of Seattle’s vision statement says that they “are responsible stewards of community resources and the environment.” We intend to hold them to that vision so that our city’s reputation and our waters don’t get polluted.