Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Coal: GPT Calculations

From reading GPT Application and doing a little arithmetic, here's some GPT Bulk COAL Calculations: 
[weight in metric tons (mt) = 2205 lbs]

1 gondola car = 102 metric tons [mt]
125 gondola cars = 1 unit train [7000'] - (ultimately to 8500' long trains)
1 unit train = 12,750 mt

East Loop Stockpile = 2.75 to 2.90 million mt [say 3 million mt]
@ 8% of annual throughput: ~3 million mt / 12.750 mt / train = 235 trains to fill stockpile

235 trains / .08 = 2941 trains/year = 100%
2941 trains/year / 365 = 8 trains/day -[coal only]

Cargo Vessels: Large Bulk Carriers @ 180k dwt to 250k dwt [deadweight tons]

Cd = dwt/ Delta = 0.78 to 0.84 [Revenue Cargo Factor]

Panamax size vessels: 950' X 106' X 39.5' X 190' [Length, Breadth, Draft, Tallest Height]
Ships larger than these qualify as Capesize vessels.

Very Large Ships with 1 screw: speed = 11 to 16.5 knots; long stopping distance; wide turning radius

DWT [Revenue Cargo] Estimates:

250k dwt @ 0.84 load factor: 210k mt / 16.5 trains / 46.7 ship loader hours @10k lb/hr or 4.5 mt/hr

250k dwt @ 0.78 load factor: 195k mt / 15.3 trains / 43.3 ship loader hours
180k dwt @ 0.84 load factor: 151.2k mt / 11.8 trains / 33.6 ship loader hours

180k dwt @ 0.78 load factor: 140.4k mt / 11 trains / 31.2 ship loader hours

Since there are to be 3 berths, each with a dedicated ship loader, up to 3 vessels could be loading at the same time.
GPT estimates 487 vessels per year / 365 = 1.33 vessels per day [average, operating at full capacity]

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Energy: WAL-MART's Epiphany

It's been a while since I've written about WAL-MART, but here's a story that should appeal to those who consider our energy policy to be lacking and think big government policy incentives are the only way to fix it.
Guess what? 
Old fashioned good business sense can also begin to change our stupid reliance on only burning ever more fossil fuel. 

Remember the 'WAL-MART effect'? 
You know, the one which resulted from WAL-MART buying into the energy efficient light bulb idea, then switching its corporate policy to be the de-facto leader in that effort?
It worked! 
And its competitors followed -almost overnight.

Now, why do you imagine WAL-MART made that decision? 
Think it had anything to do with saving itself major electrical utility costs, like on the order of 30%?
Here's a flash; self-interest motivated WAL-MART, which then led to the idea that other companies might follow for the same reason. 
But, by trailblazing this inherently good idea, WAL-MART got the immediate attention of not only its customers, but its competitors, who seemed to need a little more motivation than just doing something smart because it was smart.

After that resounding success, WAL-MART -always cost conscious- followed by reducing its huge consumption of diesel fuel by making more smart changes, like shutting down its truck engines instead of leaving them to idle as had been the widespread custom.
That little idea saved 20% of fuel costs for WAL-MART's huge truck fleet.

The latest change in WAL-MART thinking is to generate its own energy from solar and wind power, as is reported in this recent article.
Read it if you dare!
Maybe WAL-MART can convince even more doubters that alternate energy makes both sense and dollars!

While I still don't shop at WAL-MART except occasionally, you can bet I'm getting closer to it.
Because when a company, already so good at optimizing its supply chain, begins to turn its attention at other effective ways to cut costs, watch out!
The reported 27% less cost for a typical grocery basket at WAL-MART isn't something to sneeze at, and neither are economies of scale.

Now, maybe the company will focus more on providing better wages & benefits and a greater selection of American made goods; when that happens, maybe I'll become a more regular customer.
These folks are not stupid; they're smart!
I'd like to see more businesses just get with this program.
Not only will it work for them, it'll work for all of us.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

GPT: Benefactor or Malefactor?

First, here are a couple of articles published recently about grandiose Coal export plans affecting our area; read 'em and weep:
The second article quotes Bellingham's own Craig Cole, who notes that projects like this actually benefit the whole country and its economy. 
Do you agree with that? 
Wonder if he might also agree with associated harms that are caused, like environmental degradation and displaced societal investments and plans? 
Go ahead, ask him!
The sheer enormity and certain potential for major, permanent degradation is discouraging. 
Surely, there are better uses for this property. 
But, this GPT scheme is the proposal we have before us.

I have now added another link to allow access to the public information application the applicant submitted to Whatcom County Planning & Development Services [PDS] on February 28, 2011. 
This attempt to externalize costs and impacts onto to 'others' is very obvious from a reading of this application.
BTW, what degree of 'opacity' do you assign to GPT's public statements so far? 

It is a pdf document over 200 pages in length, which I have now reviewed pretty completely.
Predictably, I do have some fairly extensive questions and clarifications that need to be answered. These will be posted in due course, as specific concerns directly related to this application.
To date, the GPT conversation has been essentially one-sided, with the big money sponsors and their coterie of automatic cheering sections loudly touting the benefits while remaining silent on deleterious impacts. 
These are highly paid professionals whose goal it is to maximize corporate profits while minimizing the costs that will need to be paid from public coffers. 
Just understand that up front.

A large part of that strategy is simply limiting the scope to the basic footprint on the immediate property, while the entire logistics route, plus the mines and atmosphere are to be included.

Then, also, the mindset that GPT is that they are only a small of the assemblage of partners. 
This again, tests credulity!
GPT wants to be seen as a simple trading company tolling station that transfers products they will never own from one mode of transportation to another, with both representing potentially extraordinary impactful threats.
That also seems to apply to the financiers like Goldman Sachs who will only be interested in a quick assured payback with interest. 
Just take the money and run with no care about what ill effects the project may bring.

No one, single entity is identified that wants to accept responsibility for the totality of this operation, only its part of the profits and cost avoidance.
That is a pretty plain formula for fleecing the public; Baaa-a-a to that!
At a minimum, this secretive and devious consortium needs to be required to provide adequate insurance coverage to pay for any unplanned- but likely unavoidable- catastrophic mishaps. 
These can be single events or an accumulation of events and impacts that add up to unacceptable degradation to public lands, waters and air.

I know projects like this one are very expensive, but do carry the promise of creating jobs and wealth, because I have been involved in such proposals myself for many years during my corporate professional life. 
Unlike this proposal, the ones I was involved with assumed all responsibility for the operations and impacts, as affected governments and public entities realized the necessity for the venture.

There is no necessity for GPT, only the wish for quick profits from transferring enormous quantities of a domestic natural resource into 'black gold' for foreign competitors. 
This kind of motivation is no justification for it to happen at all, especially since it also brings the prospect such ruinous impacts to existing communities, our waters and atmosphere.

In the spectrum between wants and needs, this is clearly a want! 
Where on that scale would you rate it?
That also goes for the phalanx of fawning toadies who think they stand to benefit from this venture going forward. 
They are clearly thinking of themselves first, and not for what may be best for our collective lives together on this planet.

As far, as opposition to GPT goes, that has been either discouraged [think Whatcom County Prosecutor's Office] or derided as simple NIMBYism. 
What is that about? One side is allowed free acceptance and unlimited bloviation, while opponents are discredited, even though their arguments need to be heard.

Like a growing proportion of people who live here, I was drawn as much by by the area's breathtaking beauty as I was by the prospect of a local job. 
The job was a means to an end, not the end itself! 
Even that job was a victim of excessive corporate greed and unsustainable mis-management! 
When it ended, I elected to stay here anyway because my situation allowed it. 
Now, I'd like to stay here longer, but developments like GPT do tempt me to move somewhere else; wouldn't that be convenient? 
But whether I live here or not, this is my neighborhood and I have very serious doubts that GPT will be good for anyone's backyard in the long run!

Mark Twain lived in the Gilded Age, and loved it because -gifted as he was- he liked getting rich quick. 
He liked that so much he did it several times, often losing everything by gambling on a risky scheme. That was the latter half of the 19th century, the period of robber barons and industrial titans, who could care less about anything other than their own wealth, opulent and wasteful livestyles and power. 
Is that what we want to happen again? 
Isn't that type of excessive selfish motivation at the root of many of our current problems? 

That was also the time when railroad tycoons did what they wanted and were richly rewarded by our government with land and riches beyond belief! 
Guess what? Surprise, surprise, they want to continue that status! 
That was the time when corporations -then called 'trusts- began to be considered as people. 
Look where that idea has gotten us. 
Of course, the roots of the idea that money was 'speech' was also the wish of the tycoons. 
Some even used their money to buy seats in our Congress. 
Imagine that!
Like the idea of money from somewhere else determining what happens in your backyard? 
If so, you'll probably also love GPT!

What will happen to all that capital spent to finance GPT? 
Will it be repaid with handsome interest to wealthy individuals who may decide to invest it outside our tax laws, in Switzerland, the Cayman Islands or the Bahamas? 
How will that help us finance our essential services and other needs for the future? 
Does anyone really believe that the taxes generated from operation of GPT will be even close to sufficient to pay for the increased public services required, or the infrastructure costs? 
How did Judas spend his 30 pieces of silver? 
Think he enjoyed it? 
How about his offspring -if he had any?

GPT estimates its 'life' at 50 to 75 years, which may become shortened by a number of reasons; no more coal supply or demand, lower than anticipated prices and profit margins, global climate events that convince us that fossil fuels are the source, catastrophic accidents that destroy or materially damage important ecosystems, war & terrorism, public dissatisfaction with having to pay for private gain with public resources, improved regulations, poor business decisions, [you fill in the blank].

The point is, when GPT's time is up, the deleterious impacts will remain; just like we've seen happen before at Georgia-Pacific on our downtown waterfront. 
A Superfund type mess for us to deal with at public expense. 
When the herring, salmon and Orcas are gone, then where will the fishermen and tourists go? 
When railway communities become modern versions of shanty towns, who will buy the real estate? When the spike in economic activity based on resource extraction winds down - again, where will people find work? 
And, when this area becomes known as no longer so breath-takingly beautiful, who will care? 

But, maybe, just maybe, none or not all of these dire predictions will come true? 
Are we willing to take that chance? 
We will be doing that unconsciously unless we fight GPT now and hold it to the highest standards possible!

In the meantime, please remember the warning that President Teddy Roosevelt -a Republican- gave us a century ago when he was faced with the mounting power of the corporations -combines & trusts in gentler talk- in his time. 
He used the term 'malefactors of great wealth' as representing a serious threat to our entire system of government, then took strong action to curb that power.
That particular problem has the characteristic of periodically reappearing from time to time, as it has again now. 

So, you decide, does GPT look more like a 'benefactor' or a 'malefactor' to you? 
Maybe some of both? 
If so, let's make sure we balance the beneficial factors against the harmful factors, before allowing this ambitious get rich scheme to come to fruition in our time. 

Do they seem completely clear and honest? 
Does their application need to be seriously conditioned? 
If so, in what ways?
And, most important, what is going to be your role in making sure the EIS is scoped exceptionally well? 
Will you submit a concern? 
Will you monitor the proceedings to the best of your ability? 
Will you make sure your elected officials understand your expectations?
I hope so, because that is about all we can count on to insure what happens is above board, well considered and the best decision we can reasonably expect.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Coal: The Ant & The Elephant

Some may remember the dilemma faced by the ant when it discovered a dead elephant.
The good news; food for life!
The bad news; where to take the first bite?
I have shared some of that same dilemma when faced with the daunting task of how to get an enormous number of concerns to be actively considered as part of EIS scoping for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal [GPT].

In the greater scheme of things impacting our area and its many healthy attractions, the idea of exporting millions of tons of American coal to China through a deepwater port that hasn't even been permitted or built, ranks right up there near the top in my book.
That means the decisions that are made regarding this issue will bind us to a future we may come to seriously regret. 
That is why it is critical that we, the citizens, speak up and be heard! 

So, rather than trying to figure out a big comprehensive set of concerns before beginning to register specific comments, I've decided to just begin and proceed in bite-size chunks.
That way, the job just seems easier, plus progress can be readily measured and gaps filled in later.
With that direction set, the job becomes one of practicing the skill required to craft effective concerns and then distributing those ideas to not only the agencies involved, but with as many other citizens as possible to facilitate their active participation.
Here's an idea shared by someone else that can begin to help us develop templates that can be readily used by citizens who wish to express their own concerns:
I think diversity in samples is going to be a strength - different formats, styles, organizations, voice, etc. - yet all adhering to the same criteria (e.g. does not state an opinion, asks a question, is supported by reasonably foreseeable [result] and significance, etc.).... every sample [provided as an example] should have the disclaimer:
"This sample letter is not a good letter to copy, because it was not written by YOU." 
And, here's a short and sweet sample concern also sent to me recently by another concerned citizen:
The EIS should provide a more detailed explanation of the purpose and need for the project than is provided by the proponents application. 
Evaluate in detail the impact the operation will have on other industries, agencies and entities ability to start, develop and grow new projects that are dependent on quality of life environment to train, attract and retrain experienced employees.
Maybe these two ideas will help get other folks started in developing their own submissions to share soon with the agencies as well as other citizens. 
I expect another website will soon become available to collect and disseminate as much of this information as possible.
In the meantime, I'll be glad to accept citizen's comments also.
In case, folks want to use material from former blogs, here is a summary of links to the 53 previous blogs I've dedicated to this subject, to date:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

33. Coal: Updating Public Concerns Thursday, March 29, 2012

34. Coal: Expanding Concerns  Monday, April 30, 2012

36. Coal: Shanty Town, USA?  Friday, May 18, 2012

37. Coal: May 31 Update  Thursday, May 31, 2012

38. Coal: "Cold Ironing" & Other Stuff  Monday, June 18, 2012

39. Coal: The City's Citizens Need To Be Heard!  Wednesday, June 20, 2012

40. Coal: Latest Developments  Saturday, June 30, 2012

41. Coal: Before the Council Meeting  Monday, July 2, 2012

42. Coal: After the Council Meeting - Sorta  Tuesday, July 3, 2012

43. Coal: A Few More Lumps  Saturday, July 7, 2012

44. Coal: Manna or Mammon?  Sunday, July 8, 2012

45. Coal: The Beat Goes On  Friday, July 13, 2012

46. Coal: SEPA Information  Monday, July 16, 2012

47. Tomorrow, HamsterTalk is 5 Years Old!  Thursday, July 26, 2012

48. Coal: Shipping in the Salish Sea  Monday, July 30, 2012

49. Coal: Part 1 - A Reporter At Large  Tuesday, July 31, 2012

50. Coal: Part 2 - A Reporter At Large  Wednesday, August 1, 2012

51. Coal: SSA Marine Info  Thursday, August 2, 2012

53. Coal: A Window of Opportunity for Citizens  Thursday, August 16, 2012

54. Coal: The Ant & The Elephant  Sunday, August 19, 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Coal: A Window of Opportunity for Citizens

Some new required reading has now been published online that helps ordinary citizens make their voices heard by voicing their concerns about the GPT proposal .
James Wells' article Scoping Season: Making Our Voices Heard in the August issue of Whatcom Watch provides very useful information that outlines the EIS process which will be officially begun soon.
Additionally, Wells provides some Useful Links:
Whatcom County Planning and Development Services has a special page about GPThttp://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/pds/plan/current/gpt-ssa/index.jsp
Most complete all around information, Coal Train Facts: http://www.coaltrainfacts.org
Best information about scoping: http://protectwhatcom.org
Best information about economic and development issues: http://www.communitywisebellingham.org
Stay tuned for some examples of how citizen concerns can be framed in a way that maximizes their likelihood of being duly considered in the EIS process.
These will be developed and posted soon.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Energy: Tilting at Windmills?

Mitt Romney's remark that 'you can't put a windmill on your car' meant ... what?
I'm sure he agrees you certainly can put a propeller on an airplane, right?

But, everyone knows a plane must burn refined fuel pretty rapidly to make that propeller turn fast enough to overcome gravity and fly.
Where does that fuel come from?
Mostly from underground deposits of petroleum, that's where.

Of course, cars use fuel, too, mostly from underground.
But things are changing pretty quickly as the heretofore artificial costs of refined fossil fuels are rising in response to what?
For you economists out there; supply and demand!

I should know a little about this subject, because 8 years ago, I bought a so-called hybrid vehicle with much higher fuel efficiency than I had ever owned before.
Part of the reason for that increased fuel efficiency is applied technology that allows electrical power to be generated from the car's own momentum while it's not being accelerated.
That may not sound like much, but it does add about 10% to rated horsepower.

More importantly, there are vehicles now being developed, sold and driven that have much higher efficiencies thanks to even newer applied technologies. [WWU's solar vehicles are a good example]
One of those technologies uses electrical power stored in high-tech batteries that can be recharged by simply plugging into the power grid.
Granted, much of the existing power grid also relies upon fossil fuels from underground, but that is changing due to smart applied science as well.

Ever heard of solar power? Of course you have!
That's where we get nearly all of our energy to grow things, heat things and light things, whether in real time or stored underground from earlier centuries.

Of course, the enormous solar energy the earth receives is free of cost.
It is available to use, collect, store and transmit in various ways, including photovoltaic [PV] arrays.
Did you know that if we were to invest 1% of surface area in solar panel farms, we could produce ALL the electrical power we need?
Let me repeat that; ALL our electrical power needs can be supplied by solar farms covering 1% of our land surface.
Does that surprise you?

Of course, a smart grid system would be required to accomplish this and that would take time and investment, plus be a long term game changer for all those interests who benefit from the status quo.
But a smart grid needs to happen anyway, for several reasons; reliability, efficiency, national security, normal replacement of aging infrastructure, distribution improvements, among others.

It's normal to resist something so big and daunting, but you know its going to happen anyway so why deny the necessity for eventual change?
And, remember, big, gradual and natural changes also have the potential to create jobs, investment opportunities, certainty and the type of innovative R&D development this country prides itself upon.

A smart grid is something that is inherently American, too. It can't be simply outsourced.
Two role model examples of this type of game change are NASA and our space program -which has spawned all sorts of new technology and thinking- and the Internet -which has transformed the way we do business and live our lives.

There is no question that finding ways to harness solar energy more effectively into our fuel needs not only brings many desirable benefits, but very few -if any- downside risks.
A side benefit could be to conserve increasingly scarce underground resources for more important purposes than simply burning, while also decreasing damaging trends in our atmosphere that contribute to Greenhouse effects.

So far, the USA has made scarcely a dent in the potential solar power has for our future.
Yet, other countries are embracing the concept willingly and aggressively.
That should be troubling for a society that is used to thinking of itself as privileged and advanced.
We're simply not acting like the progressive leaders the world has come to expect.

In 2006, I made a decision to install a small [1.5kw] PV array on my garage roof and sell the electrical power it generates back to Puget Sound Energy.
Fortunately, the State of Washington -compliments of Federal incentives- provided some financial incentives to help me justify fronting the cost.
Almost six years later, I decided to triple the size of my PV array installation, again with modest financial incentives from the State of Washington.
Now, I produce fully two-thirds of the power I use in my home.
I feel good about that, because it gives me the chance to tangibly contribute to some goals and ideals I support.
It also provides Puget Power with power it doesn't need to produce from fossil fuels; which they gladly pay me for.
And, it provides jobs to fine local people, plus sets a small example that others may wish to emulate.

One small step at a time is always necessary to begin any campaign for change.
After a while momentum will begin to build and the next thing we know, things are happening!

OK, I got off on a little solar tangent, but wind power is also free.
All we have to do is harness it, just like the solar energy from which it derives.
Remember Mitt Romney's statement, 'you can't put a windmill on your car'?
Well, literally, he's right, but directionally he's wrong; here's why:
 Since plugging into a power grid now can fuel a high-tech car, where that power came from doesn't have to be just fossil or solar, but also wind.

I expect folks in Lynden know that already, with their Dutch heritage and history of harnessing wind for beneficial purposes.
Heck, a large part of Holland was reclaimed from the sea by pumping water from behind dikes using windmills.
Farmers used windmills before electricity was available to mechanically pump water for livestock and crops.
It ain't exactly a futuristic high-tech concept, it's an established method that's been used a long time.

Of course, modern wind turbines and their towering supports have now been refined and adapted to power generation purposes, so that electric grids can transmit it to multiple uses.
Above ground wind power is an alternative to underground fossil fuels. 

That wind turbines are already established technology can be easily demonstrated by driving through windy gorges or viewing windy ridges where wind farms have been established.
Admittedly, there is controversy over locations that are appropriate, but wind turbines remain a viable alternate to burning fossil fuels, as well as opportunities for income generation, investment and jobs. Why not embrace this new, more efficient concept?

Not long ago, I heard of a potential investment opportunity that was local in nature.
It hasn't happened yet, mainly because the Whatcom County Council can't seem to get its collective head around what policy it ought to adopt regarding permitting.
I guess its just not yet a big enough deal for them to consider important, but maybe there are other reasons.
Anyway, it's a shame that not much progress is currently thought necessary for wind power to become a reality, especially so near a place like Lynden.

Two wind power articles appeared recently, one in the latest issue of Whatcom Watch on this very subject.
This one is from the Oregonian.

Sorry to be so windy........

Monday, August 13, 2012

Politics: Campaign Boost or Cannon Fodder?

A different subject for today, likely motivated by excessive Olympics and renewed attention to Presidential politics.

Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan amounts to a battlefield promotion from a boot camp hotshot to a combat lieutenant. That metaphor isn't literal because neither candidate has one iota of actual military experience, despite their mutual coziness with neocon thinking that advocates an ever expanding defense budget. Oddly, that preference seems to impact fiscal budget balancing in a way that is undeniable; it leads one to the conclusion that without either defense cuts or tax increases, the only changes likely to be seriously considered are cuts to social programs like Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, education and environmental and consumer protection. Good luck with that plan!

For all of Romney's vagueness, gaffes and flip floppiness, this VP selection begins to tangibly box him in because it probably reflects the way he is really thinking more than anything he's said to date. Why, even Muhammad Ali couldn't dance his way out of this corner, and he was really good at it!

It's the way Ryan thinks that appeals to Romney, plus his fresh personality and demonstrated ability to charm while presenting daring ideas that most politicians wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. Ryan's core values seem very similar to Romney's, but his candor is much superior - something that can only boost Romney's own deficiency, at least temporarily.

Paul Ryan is less than 6 weeks younger then my son, also 42. That's also the age of Mitt Romney's oldest son. Generation gaps that wide between Presidential candidates and their VP choices are pretty rare. Why is that? Most likely because of the experience factor and the maturity that comes over time from dealing with life's challenges, not just noodling over adolescent notions instilled by reading Ayn Rand. The technical qualifications for VP are pretty minimal; per wikianswers.com, the following:
"The vice-president must be qualified to be President. According to the twelfth amendment of the Constitution, "no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States." In order to be President, a person must be a native-born citizen at least 35 years of age and a resident of the united states for at least 14 years. From a practical standpoint, candidates for vice-president are usually chosen to balance the ticket or to placate a faction of the party which lost its bid to choose the presidential nominee. The vice-presidential candidate may be chosen from a geographical or demographical area in which the presidential candidate seems weaker."
Ahh, the same qualifications as the President. That makes sense. Does young Ryan have what Americans expect from someone 'one heartbeat away' from the Presidency? That is debatable, even though not nearly as debatable as John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin! But, in the end, the electorate will decide in its wisdom who wins or loses. I believe the outcome will become known before the elections, just as Romney suspected he needed a boost similar to the 2008 'Hail Mary' that John McCain -an admitted risk taker- threw in such reckless desperation.

Ryan's selection does have certain contrasts and symmetry to it. Ideologically, he is similar to Romney. Both men have obsessive focus on money, budgets and business. But, Ryan is more candid and specific about details of his proposals, while Romney prefers a more secretive, vague and opportunistic pandering approach. Both men are well set financially, which casts serious doubt on their ability to legitimately empathize with those less fortunate. Romney claims business skills and success, but Ryan essentially has none; only 14 years in the House of Representatives - which still qualifies him for a life pension and benefits most people would envy. And, Wisconsin law allows him to run for re-election while also running for VP! Nice.

It is very interesting to speculate what may transpire when Congress has to address its enormous and growing deficit. Both Romney and Ryan like to criticize Obama and the Democrats for all our country's ills, and that's fair game, even though hyperbole reigns. 
Romney appears clueless about what to do, no doubt partly because he is so invested in tax loopholes himself, as a very rich man with knowledge of and access to the best legal and tax minds available on this planet. Can't risk upsetting that applecart, can we?

Ryan thinks he knows what to do and has come out with one grandiose plan after another, each one watered down because of justified resistance to only 'supply-side' economic approaches. He has had chances to support the Bowles-Simpson Plan, Congress's own deficit reduction sessions and the 'Gang of Six' ideas for compromise, but in each case has wimped out and refused to become part of even a partial substantial solution. How does that work out against his stated goals? My way or the highway? That ain't a solution either!

At this point, the Democrats do have some deficit leverage, but only if they use it! One sure way to get defense budget cuts to balance other necessary reductions is to simply let the US 'fall of the cliff' and not agree to any budget or deficit policy package until after next year. Then, assuming they still have a majority in the Senate, they could force concessions from Ryan and his cohorts to reinstate the Bush tax cuts and lower taxes on everyone except the wealthiest 1%, in exchange for other budget compromises. I hope they will do that, because that is the only message the R's are likely to respond to. Brinksmanship? Yes, but what is our real alternative to more stupid gridlock in Washington, DC?

Either Ryan beats the odds and becomes VP to his new adoptive father, Romney, or he retains his safe seat in Congress as a rising star with better experience, and an enhanced retirement benefit package. Can't beat that with a stick, can you? Particularly for a young right-wing ideologue with an atypical pleasing manner, who got temporarily unplugged from a fast track blaze of glory. Platoon leader, maybe; General, never!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Coal: Terminal Design & Operations Recommendations

This NRDC website describes a number of recommended design, operation and policy recommendations for Container Port and Terminal facilities, based on major pollution problems identified in 2004 as needing major improvement.

Most of these recommendations apply to existing Container Port & Terminal facilities as needed modifications; but in the case of new facilities, they should be used as part of the design & operation criteria.

While the proposed GPT is not presently foreseen as a Container Port, but instead a Bulk Terminal for coal, these recommendations would seem to be even more important because of the toxic and friable nature of the coal - which contributes to airborne dust and water-borne pollution.

What a rare opportunity to use state-of-the-art technology and best management practices to begin with rather than waiting for predictable problems to occur!

That kind of prudence is called the Precautionary Principle, first espoused by Benjamin Franklin who famously said that 'a stitch in time saves nine'.

So, in that spirit, why not adopt these prudent recommendations at the very start of any new terminal at Cherry Point?
After all, that would allow both advocates and opponents more confidence and certainty in what is actually being proposed as well as what adaptions will be incorporated into the design and operations as up-front mitigation for known concerns.

Here is a summary of recommendations:
The fact-finding for this report revealed untenable situations in many communities near ports: freeways and neighborhood streets overloaded with trucks, homes coated with soot, soaring asthma rates, containers stacked high enough to create significant neighborhood blight, piles of dredged sludge forming toxic islands, and prime marine animal habitats gouged by channeling. The following are recommendations to port operators and policymakers on how to clean up port operations. The recommendations, and the problems they seek to address, are described in greater detail throughout the report.

Recommendations for Ports

Ports must commit to protect local communities and the environment, not only during expansions but also during regular operations. Following are suggested measures used by select ports worldwide to successfully decrease impacts on local communities and ecosystems. These measures should be employed at all container ports to clean up their operations, and local activists should be aware of these options to advocate for their implementation. Ports should consider the negotiation of new or modified leases as an important opportunity to require a combination of the mitigation measures, such as the use of cleaner fuels and equipment.

Marine vessels
  • Clean up harbor craft, such as tugboats, through engine repower and retrofit programs.

  • Limit idling of oceangoing vessels and tugboats by providing electric power at docks and requiring ships and tugboats to "plug in" to shoreside power while at berth.

  • Require ships, including oceangoing vessels, to use the cleanest grade of diesel fuel possible, with a sulfur content of 15 to 2,000 parts per million.

  • Where possible, create incentives for, or otherwise promote the use of, emission controls on oceangoing vessels.
Cargo-handling equipment
  • Retire equipment that is ten or more years old and replace it with the cleanest available equipment and fuel choices, preferably alternative fuels.

  • Retrofit existing equipment less than ten years old to run on the best available control technology, including diesel particulate filters (DPFs) with lean NOx catalysts (LNCs) and, if not feasible, with diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs).

  • Switch to cleaner diesel fuels, such as low-sulfur fuel with sulfur content less than 15 parts per million and diesel emulsions.
On-road trucks
  • Create incentive programs that encourage fleet modernization, the retirement of older trucks, and their replacement with modern lower-emitting trucks.

  • Offer incentives for the installation of pollution controls, including DPFs with LNCs or, if not feasible, with DOCs.

  • Make cleaner fuels, such as diesel emulsions or low-sulfur diesel, available to off-site trucks.

  • Minimize truck idling by enforcing idling limits or by installing idle shutoff controls.
  • Repower or replace all switching locomotives that do not meet the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tier 0 Standards with electric-hybrid or alternative-fuel engines.

  • Install engine emissions controls where possible.

  • Require automatic engine shutoff controls to minimize unnecessary idling.

  • Commit to using cleaner fuels, such as on-road grade diesel.
Stormwater management
  • Take principal responsibility, as the general permittee, for preparing a stormwater pollution prevention plan for all terminals.

  • Provide guidance to all port tenants for development of model stormwater programs, oversight and inspections of individual terminals to confirm implementation of an acceptable program, and education and training of terminal staff.

  • Carefully document and analyze potential water pollution problems, water quality monitoring, and best management practices for the prevention, control, and treatment of stormwater runoff. Other measures recommended include water quality programs; traffic mitigation; land use, light, and noise abatement; improved aesthetics; and other terminal design features.
Recommendations for Policymakers

In addition to the mitigation measures ports should implement on their own, a number of policy and regulatory actions are needed to protect human health and the environment from the large, industrial, and high-polluting operations at marine ports. Ordinarily, such activities would be subject to stringent regulation, but oversight of ports falls between the regulatory cracks, defeated by confusion over jurisdictional authority and the ongoing efforts of a strong industry lobby. While a patchwork of international, federal, state, and local rules apply to various pollution sources at ports, most are weak and poorly enforced.

Marine vessels
  • The U.S. government should officially ratify MARPOL Annexes IV and VI (an international treaty that prevents sewage pollution and sets emissions standards for ships) and the Antifouling Systems Convention, which bans toxic chemical coatings on ship hulls.

  • The EPA should expedite efforts to establish the entire East, West, and Gulf coasts as control zones subject to stricter emission standards under MARPOL VI.

  • The EPA should implement a graduated harbor fee system similar to a program in Sweden that requires more polluting ships to pay higher fees upon entering a port.

  • The EPA should expedite implementation of stricter emission standards for all marine vessels within two years.

  • States and regional authorities should create financial incentives for the cleanup and replacement of older marine vessels.

  • States and regional authorities should require ships to plug in to shoreside power while docked.

  • States should require that ships use low-sulfur diesel while in coastal waters and at berth (until electric power is made available). In the absence of state action, regional authorities should require this.

  • Regional authorities should monitor and enforce ship speed limits.
On-road and nonroad vehicles
  • The EPA must follow through with full implementation of its 2007 emissions standards for on-road, heavy-duty trucks; its 2008 emissions standards for nonroad vehicles and equipment; and the related lower sulfur diesel requirements.

  • The EPA should adopt a series of diesel retrofit rules, similar to those proposed in the California risk reduction program, to establish a cleanup schedule for existing polluting diesel engines. In the absence of federal action, states or local authorities should adopt these programs.

  • The EPA should set uniform federal idling limits for all diesel engines. In the absence of federal action, states or local authorities should require idling limits.

  • States should provide incentive programs to reduce pollution from heavy-duty diesel engines, similar to programs such as California's Carl Moyer and Gateway Cities; in the absence of state action, regional authorities should sponsor such programs.

  • Regional authorities should adopt fleet rules to clean up and require new, cleaner purchases of all heavy-duty engines, similar to those in place in the Los Angeles area.
Inland cargo transport
  • The EPA and individual states should consider fees on each container entering a port to provide funding for mitigation of the environmental impacts of moving those containers.

  • The U.S. government should adopt and support a sustainable transportation system program, similar to the European Union program, facilitating the shift of cargo transport from more polluting modes (such as trucking) to cleaner locomotive and barge transport.
  • The EPA should implement stricter emission standards for locomotives within one year.

  • States and regional authorities should also create financial incentives for the cleanup and replacement of older locomotives.

  • States should negotiate memorandums of understanding that create incentives for cleaner locomotives. In the absence of state action, regional authorities should pursue this.
Land use
  • Regional authorities should improve efforts to protect marine habitats from further infill due to port developments.

  • Regional authorities should work together with local communities and marine terminals to improve efficiency and land use and to minimize impacts of terminals on local communities.
Community relations
  • Neighboring states should work together in coastal alliances to protect their marine natural resources and to share information on programs and technologies, and they should work together to jointly shoulder the neglected responsibility to neighboring communities and their surrounding environment.
  • The EPA should issue effluent guidelines to require a general baseline level of pollutant reduction for port facilities, or for those pollutants typically found in port runoff.

  • States should ensure that anti-degradation provisions of federal and state law are fully implemented in stormwater permits.

  • States should give special attention to the development of total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for impaired waters around many ports.

  • Local governments should prioritize port facilities when designing inspection protocols in conjunction with local regulatory programs and implementation of municipal stormwater permits.
Oil spills
  • Congress should pass the Stop Oil Spills Act (H.R. 880) to accelerate the phase-in of double-hulled tankers in U.S. waters by 2007.

  • Regional authorities should require ports to take steps to ensure that oil pollution does not become part of runoff and that portwide oil-recycling programs are in place.
Ballast water
  • The U.S. Coast Guard should finalize mandatory national ballast water regulations as quickly as possible, or no later than the expected summer 2004 completion date.

  • States should adopt ballast water regulations, similar to those in place in California and Washington, that ensure a 200-mile buffer from the U.S. coast.
Waste discharge
  • The EPA must consider more stringent requirements on the dumping of wastes containing oxygen-depleting nitrogen and phosphorous, as well as persistent toxic compounds that continue to threaten marine life.

Based on our previous survey of 10 of the largest container ports in the United States, not nearly enough is being done to alleviate the severe impacts of the highly polluting shipping industry despite real and significant environmental and health impacts associated with marine port operations. Ports should take internal measures to reduce pollution caused by port activities. Likewise, regulatory agencies at the federal, state, and local level must provide long overdue safeguards. Further, if port expansions are to continue, all projects must be mitigated to the maximum extent possible, efficiency must be improved, and current operations should be cleaned up.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Coal: SSA Marine Info

A comprehensive report on SSA Marine is available via the Internet, here.
It was presented in early 2006 at a conference on Global commerce, but restricted from being reprinted.

Because understanding SSA Marine's business, typical modes of operations and remarkable culture of secrecy seems important to adequately assess its sincerity, clout and willingness to respond to public concerns, providing easier access to this information may be important.

Since the report is lengthy -over 90 pages- many may feel daunted to read the entire document.
To help alleviate that obstacle, I am reprinting several excerpts, below, to spur interest in this document.
Rhonda Evans and Jason McNichol

University of California
Under the supervision of
Tom Juravich Conference Research Director
Kate Bronfenbrenner Conference Coordinator
February 1, 2006
Prepared for the International Conference
Global Companies – Global Unions – Global Research – Global Campaigns 
An Excerpted Summary:
SSA [Stevedoring Services of America] Marine: Headquarters in Seattle WA 
-- a privately owned international marine cargo-handling company with over 150 operations in 19 countries; one of the top five terminal operators in the world; 13,000 worldwide employees; over U.S. $1.2 billion in annual revenues; growth annual rate of [estimated] 9.1 to 18% [2006]
- loading and unloading of ships
- inter-modal rail transport
- logistical and software solutions
- government contracts 
- management by its approximately 70 subsidiaries and joint ventures.
United States - operates major terminals in Seattle, Tacoma, Oakland, Los Angeles/Long Beach, and other locations, as well as 27 facilities in the Gulf and Atlantic regions. 
Outside US - significant operations in Mexico, Panama, Chile, Vietnam, and New Zealand, and South Africa, other countries. 
Customers - shipping lines, government agencies, port authorities, consignees, railroads, and logistics providers. 
Major competitors - Hutchison Whapoa, P&O, and Evergreen Marine, others. 
In the U.S. SSA frequently invests in new ventures with support from port authorities and municipalities, who often co-finance projects through public bonds backed by agreements on future lease payments. 
SSA’s international investments are financed by combinations of firm equity, commercial bonds, national governments, and intergovernmental lending (especially through the International Finance Corporation (IFC).
SSA’s workers in the United States and abroad are represented by several regional unions, including International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), among others.
According to industry observers, SSA Marine has a reputation of being more anti-union than many of its peers.
SSA’s record of health and safety violations in the U.S. reflects the risks faced by workers in the cargo handling sector more broadly. 
As a company that frequently negotiates high-profile, complex contracts with both public and private entities, SSA has also been party to disputes and controversies with other stakeholders, including litigation over partnership contracts, worker safety, and public debates over the significant environmental impacts of port activities. 
Among industry analysts, SSA Marine and its parent company, Carrix, are considered to be extremely secretive and private regarding the disclosure of financial information. As one trade observer has remarked, “Despite its vast scope and clout, virtually nothing is known about SSA’s finances or operations. This is because SSA is owned by private individuals and is not obligated to report profits or other details publicly.” Aside from very basic information provided by Hoover’s and Dun and Bradstreet, the privately held company does not provide consolidated information regarding its balance sheets, investments, cost structure, and income.
SSA Marine is a privately owned company that has been owned and headed by members of the Hemingway and Smith families for three generations. The company tends to promote from within the firm, and most of the senior officers of the company have long histories with SSA Marine:
President and CEO of Carrix, SSA Marine and affiliated companies: Jon Hemingway
EVP Strategic Planning, Carrix: Daniel Flynn
President, SSA Conventional: Claude Stritmatter
President, SSA Terminals: Edward DeNike
Chief Financial Officer, Carrix: Charles Sadowski
President, Tideworks: Mike Schwank
President, SSA Containers: Edward DeNike
SVP, Business Development and Marketing: Andrew McLauchlan
President, SSA International: David Michou
Environmental: Public interest groups in the United States are paying increasing attention to environmental concerns in the marine port sector, both at existing port sites and in proposals for the development of new terminals. This heightened interest highlights the toxic hazards port employees are exposed to at their workplace and creates new opportunities for alliances between labor and environmental groups. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is at the forefront of legal efforts to reduce port pollution; the Coalition for Clean Air in California is also publicly involved.
In a 2004 report on port pollution, NRDC authors reported that marine ports are among the least regulated point-sources of major pollutants in the United States. The authors also argued that efforts intended to accommodate increased imports have resulted in increased emissions without sufficient government oversight.
Sources of pollution at marine ports include ship fuel, diesel engines in trucks, ships, cargo-handling equipment, and locomotives – all of which burn the dirtiest grade of diesel fuel. Environmental and health impacts include increased risks of contracting respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other diseases among employees and nearby residents; increased smog; and decreased water quality.
Water quality is compromised by oily bilge water from ships, oil spills, wastewater, chemical leakage, storm water runoff, and dredging.
Major air pollutants found at ports include: nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, ozone, particulate matter, diesel exhaust, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, heavy metals, dioxins, and pesticides. 
Diesel exhaust is comprised of 450 different compounds, about 40 of which are listed by the California Environmental Protection Agency as toxic air contaminants.
The NRDC compared average emissions of major pollutants from large ports to those from other major sources. A NRDC report, illustrates the substantial and variable emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter from selected domestic ports as compared to other sources. Reflecting the large scale of its operations, the Port of Los Angeles is the largest emitter in the comparison.
Public concerns over environmental consequences of port development have grown noticeably in the last 30 years.
Project advocates often begin planning by examining how they can satisfy the demands of environmentalists and community groups, in part because they know that such groups will carefully scrutinize the public findings of required environmental impact assessments. 
Local communities are often most concerned about traffic congestion and air pollution. According to SSA CEO Jon Hemingway, in Southern California the general public antipathy toward the cargo industry, competition between commuters and truckers on congested roads, and “NIMBY” (not in my backyard) attitudes toward new projects make infrastructure improvement efforts difficult to carry out.
Community concerns have derailed several major expansion projects in recent years. The port of Long Beach recently rescinded approval of an expansion of the COSCO terminal after the filed environmental impact statement came under serious criticism from environmental and community groups. An NRDC group successfully held up the Long Beach Pier J expansion.
At least two environmental controversies involved SSA Marine in Seattle. Concerns over the handling of contaminants at the Harbor Island Superfund site, where Terminal 18 is located, led to EPA rulings regarding clean-up provisions during the 1980s and 1990s. And when SSA worked with the Port of Seattle to redevelop the port in the late 1990s, the contractor hired to complete the project was issued citations for safety violations at the Harbor Island site by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. It appears, however, that SSA itself was not directly involved in the clean-up work on Harbor Island during the redevelopment phase.
A dispute over New Zealand Stevedoring included accusations that the company was engaged in something akin to “strategic bankruptcy” or the declaration of insolvency to avoid liabilities, followed by the establishment of another company with some of the same assets and management. Drexler described the restructuring of New Zealand Stevedoring:
SSA had apparently developed a scheme in which the subsidiaries leased their equipment from another subsidiary and therefore had no assets that could be sold or attached to cover severance or back pay in a liquidation. After going out of business, New Zealand Stevedoring established new companies under new names and with the same officers and directors who were also principals in SSA. The new companies occupied the same offices occupied by the bankrupt companies.
Labor unions consider the company to be one of the most anti-union companies in the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).
The 2002 contract negotiations between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association were marked by extreme bitterness and resulted in a shutdown of West Coast ports.
The ILWU viewed SSA Marine as the main obstacle in contract negotiations and accused the company of trying to destroy the union. ILWU president Spinosa went on record at the time, stating, “"While most employers want to work with us to implement new technologies, SSA is undermining negotiations because their primary interest is breaking the union."
The lock-out lasted ten days, until the Bush Administration intervened by declaring the shutdown of West Coast ports to be a significant danger to the national economy. This was the first step necessary to invoke Taft-Hartley, and a federal judge in San Francisco granted a temporary restraining order and a hearing for an 80-day injunction.

While SSA Marine is actively involved with port politics, it is not a major corporate player on either the national or international political stage. 
The Center for Responsive Politics reported that the company gave approximately $24,000 in political contributions between 1999 and 2002; 80% went to Republicans. SSA Marine is reported to have strong ties with Senator Patty Murray from Washington, whose husband works for the company.
As a highly secretive, privately held company with multiple subsidiaries and partnerships, SSA does not disclose details of its strategies, strengths, and liabilities easily.
Now, I ask you, do you think dealing with this SSA company will be an easy task?

• With the track record SSA has established, we can count on them being difficult, secretive, combative and deep-pocketed, but stingy in paying for anything more than the minimum safeguards that are imposed upon them; because that would reduce expected returns on investment. 

• The 'alliance' SSA has made with unions appears shaky at best, since its attitude is to use them as tools rather than true, long-term partners. 

• Environmental concerns are not likely to be comprehensively addressed unless absolutely mandated by governmental agencies.

• Congestion on land and water will be externalized to 'others' whenever possible; meaning us -the taxpayers.

• Safety concerns will be treated as matters for 'others' -us- to deal with and pay for.

• Degradation of our area and associated property values would be inevitable should the GPT proposal ever come to fruition; sufficient mitigation cannot be quantified, much less exacted adequately.

We'd be better off to simply purchase the Cherry Point site and hold it for a better, less harmful, activity, with more diverse, real jobs for local citizens.

There is no need to be panicked into agreeing to the first proposal to come forth, especially one that is so certain to create terrible impacts. 
Since 1982, this site has been waiting for a decent proposal that people would welcome. 

By the way, 1982 was the year that a terminal proposal from Chicago Bridge & Iron went all the way to the Governor of Washington for final approval, which never came! 
That was because former Governor Spellman -a Republican- had the good sense & guts to veto it.
This GPT proposal should never get that far!