SEATTLE (AP) -- Protesters opposed to Arctic oil drilling are preparing to paddle out in kayaks to meet Shell's massive offshore drilling rig as it arrives any day now in Seattle, raising the stakes in the battle over oil exploration in the Arctic Ocean.
The petroleum giant says it is moving ahead with plans to use leased space at the Port of Seattle to load its drilling rigs and other vessels with supplies and personnel as it prepares to explore for oil this summer in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast.
That's despite the city saying the Port of Seattle needs a new permit before it can host Shell's Arctic drilling fleet and the city warning that the port and Foss Maritime, a local company working with Shell, could face fines for unpermitted activity.
One of the drill rigs it plans to use has been parked at Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula and is expected in Seattle this week.
John Sellers, 48, who works with an advocacy group on economic justice issues, paddled out to meet the rig when it arrived in Port Angeles and now hopes to do the same when it arrives in Seattle's Elliott Bay.
Environmentalists are planning a three-day so-called "festival of resistance" starting Saturday. Smaller groups of experienced kayakers have also been training to confront the rigs when they arrive in Elliott Bay.
Shell's drilling program cleared a major bureaucratic hurdle Monday when the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved its multi-year exploration plan in the Chukchi Sea. The company must still obtain other permits from state and federal agencies, including one to drill from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
But Shell spokesman Curtis Smith has said the approval "is an important milestone and signals the confidence regulators have in our plan."