Monday, November 26, 2012

Coal: EIS Scoping Comment No. 25

Non-reimbursed Government Expenses 

Governments at all levels are continuing to incur significant expenses related to permitting and administering the GPT proposed project, that are not paid by the Applicant. 

For instance, Whatcom County has spent thousands of dollars to date on activity even before permitting officially began, yet charged the Applicant only the $2500 fee generally applicable to 'normal' permit applications. 
For an exceptionally complicated project containing major wider implications and potential harms, the standard fee is woefully inadequate and essentially represents a public gift to a private entity. 
This practice is grossly unfair to taxpayers and needs to be mitigated.
Although law does require the Applicant to pay for EIS costs, this does not necessarily include all the considerable staff time from each of the public agencies involved, not to speak of the untold hours of voluntary, uncompensated, citizen time in even expressing legitimate concerns for possible inclusion in the EIS.

I request that Whatcom County immediately undertake to assess the costs of these uncompensated services and make this information available to County officials and the public at large, as a first step in redressing this obvious inequity. 
Without such information, neither County officials nor citizens will even know the extent of any financial burden being silently foisted upon the public treasury. 
Such abuse must be identified and curtailed, in this case, by County action.

If these types of subsidies are routinely granted to Applicants during the initial permitting process, just imagine what other, much greater financial demands might become expected and imposed upon local governments should the project be approved! 
The Applicant's claims of additional jobs and tax revenues could easily be dwarfed by the costs of required new public infrastructure, such as grade-separated crossings all along the BNSF railway that bisects multiple municipalities and greatly increases safety and convenience problems with citizens and businesses alike. 

Please consider these uncompensated costs -both current and potential future- as important factors in fairly weighing costs versus benefits.