Thursday, March 29, 2012

Coal: Updating Public Concerns

[NOTE: A correction has been made, as shown in bold below]
Unfortunately, this GPT proposal is a subject that won't go away despite widespread community concern and wishful thinking on the part of many who were drawn to our area because of its outstanding natural beauty, abundant clean air and water and relative peacefulness.

The prospect of our scenic shoreline being used to haul, handle and ship coal to China in huge quantities without our acceptance of the idea is as disturbing as it is potentially disruptive of many of the things we hold dear. Yet, we seem powerless to have our voices heard in the bureaucratic process through which the idea will be considered, conditioned and decided upon. That is very frustrating, even infuriating to many, including me.

Last week, a public meeting was held to explain the process and projected timeline for the so-called Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] to be completed, once a qualified consultant has been named; which is also when the official clock is started for public comment.
That means all of the concerns that have been registered to date must be resubmitted after the date the official clock -stopwatch- gets started; and it makes no difference whether these concerns were registered verbally or in writing, on paper or in electronic format.

Now, all this stuff must be submitted again via e-mail, to make it easier for the bureaucrats to record, review and evaluate it within the time frame they will allocate. Because, I have already written down most of my comments, it won't take much more effort for me to resubmit it -which I do plan to do. Hopefully, just submitting URLs to several blogs will be sufficient, but who knows? If the bureaucrats require only text, then I'll have a bit more work to do and they will need to provide a few more megabytes of electronic storage.

Since the overall time frame is generally estimated to be about two years before decisions can be made, all this public input must probably be made in 60 days from the time to be announced about the next 12 to 18 months; after that, its too late to be heard - whether that means by real human beings or digital archives.

Fortunately - or unfortunately, we are told that all this electronic input will be made available for our own public scrutiny on official websites; essentially our own electronic media being regurgitated back at us is apparently all we can expect while the contracted work of evaluating, weighting and forcing the comments into predetermined formats is being done by professionals, in whom the power to decide what project gets built will be invested.

I wish I had more faith in this process than I do! But, you see this game is already rigged; the 'process' is actually a fancy, detailed checklist designed to eventually justify an approval of some sort, based upon whatever is accepted as its 'scope'.
That 'scoping' is the real game; limiting the scope very narrowly protects the would-be investors' investment, conveniently externalizing those things excluded to 'others' - meaning us, already cash-strapped local governments, our cash-short State government and our hopelessly inept and unresponsive Federal government.

To the extent the 'investors' can escape being held accountable for things like providing safe railroad crossings, protecting our clean air & water, limiting noise and nuisances, preserving our shoreline flora & fauna, eliminating potential spillage and harm from gigantic ships using our restricted scenic waters, reducing property values, depleting our national resources, aiding & abetting the economy of our chief competitor for manufacturing products and supplying jobs, while continuing to collect subsidies and profits from avoiding responsibility, they most certainly will!
In short, these 'investors' will seek to profit at the expense of the public. Count on it!

There have been a few more articles posted during the last several days that relate to this coal terminal proposal that shed light on new perspectives:

This month's Whatcom Watch carries this update from Preston Schiller:

A KCTS article states increased coal train traffic could mean bad news. Ya think?

This one, from the Billings, MT Outpost asks Who pays cost of coal trains?

Enjoy these reads, then form your own opinion, making sure you write it down so it can be submitted via e-mail when the bureaucrats tell you it's time.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Coal: History Has A Way Of Repeating Itself.

"Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity." - Lord Acton
Excellent reports of the public meeting at Bellingham High School held on Tuesday, March 20 were published in the Herald [John Stark] and Crosscut [Floyd Mackay]. Also, a Snohomish County blog has picked up coverage. Together, these summarize the status of the project as viewed by officialdom; which means everything written or spoken before this moment in time must be repeated again -in writing- to become part of the official record.

Imagine that! All that has gone before merely prepares for what must come next. If that sounds a little redundant or convoluted, it may be, but the rules applies anyway if public input is to be considered. So be it.

Since I've already written down most of my remarks and references made to date, I might be almost abreast of this game, providing the designated officialdom accepts my e-mailed list of URLs. And, if they don't, there will need to be many e-mails with miles of text to send into the yawning maw of bureaucracy. You know I WILL do it, don't you? So, that history will repeat itself, too. I will print a list at the bottom for my own public record.

Does anyone really believe the proposed GPT project ought to be simple to decide upon?
Should it be of such limited scope that it confines itself to the 250 acres of property and the proposed wharf site? Shouldn't all the roads, towns, people and nature along the long railroad rights-of-way and shipping lanes be considered?
And, is this 'debate' really about jobs? Which jobs? Those in China?
Or, is it mostly about the shortsighted greed of a few FATCATS?

And, what about the costs that get excluded from the so-called EIS, like serious mitigation for the created safety, health, nuisance and property value problems GPT would cause? Would these be externalized for assignment to 'others' - meaning taxpayers, property owners and financially strapped local governments?

I'm afraid these words uttered in 1932 by FDR at the Commonwealth Club are what the proponents want:
"The profits go to companies, and the debt goes to the people"
Here's my list of blogs on this subject:

Coal: HamsterTalk Blogs from March 27 thru March 23, 2012

Here are 27 previous Blogs with a 'Coal' label written from March 27, 2011 through December 30, 2011 on HamsterTalk

1. Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear... Sunday, March 27, 2011

2. Coal Terminal: Mayor's Listening Session Wednesday, June 1, 2011

3. Good Mornin' America, How Are Ya? Wednesday, June 8, 2011

4. Climatology: Natural Science or Political Science? Saturday, July 9, 2011

5. Making Tracks To Where? Friday, July 15, 2011

6. Coal Terminal: A Pit & Pendulum Exercise? Thursday, July 21, 2011

7. Coal Terminal: Trains & Infrastructure Saturday, July 30, 2011

8. Coal Terminal: Bulk Carriers & Kayaks Sunday, July 31, 2011

9. Coal Terminal: Update on Developments Monday, August 1, 2011

10. Coal Terminal: Another Update Tuesday, August 2, 2011

11. Coal Terminal: Playing Defense Wednesday, August 3, 2011

12. Coal Terminal:Whatcom Watch Remembers Cherry Point Agreement Thursday, August 4, 2011

13. Coal: A Global Perspective Thursday, September 1, 2011

14. Coal: Floyd McKay's Latest Crosscut Article Wednesday, September 28, 2011

15. Coal: Green versus Gold? Wednesday, October 19, 2011

16. Coal: The Role of Politics Wednesday, October 19, 2011

17. Coal: National Geographic Article Friday, October 21, 2011

18. Coal: NPR Weighs In With Two Articles Thursday, October 27, 2011

19. Big Coal meets Cherry Point's tiny herring Friday, October 28, 2011

20. Coal: Where Does Bellingham Really Stand? Sunday, October 30, 2011

21. Coal: Location, Location, Location - For Whom? Monday, October 31, 2011

22. Coal: What Does Lake Whatcom, Waterfront Redevelopement & The Olympic Pipe Line Have to Do With It? Thursday, November 3, 2011

23. Coal: Possible Good News? Thursday, November 10, 2011

24. Energy: Update On Coal, Oil & Other Fossil Fuel Projects Wednesday, November 16, 2011

25. Impacts: Coal Versus Oil Sands Thursday, November 17, 2011

26. Trains: 'Here's Mud In Your Eye'Thursday, December 15, 2011

27. Coal: Why Can't We Citizens Have A Strong Voice? Friday, December 30, 2011

28. Coal: Specific Actions Bellingham Must Take Sunday, January 1, 2012

29. Coal & Climate Friday, January 27, 2012

30. Constitution, Corporations & Coal Wednesday, February 22, 2012