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.