Wednesday, September 26, 2012

GPT: EIS Scoping Comment No. 3

Corporate Structure & Responsibilty

September 26, 2012

Mr Tyler Schroeder, Whatcom County
Mr Randel Perry, U.S. Corps of Engineers
Ms Jeannie Summerhays,  Washington State Department of Ecology

Subject: Scoping for Draft EIS for Proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal, Cherry Point, Whatcom County

As a concerned Bellingham resident and former elected official, I am submitting these connected comments and questions for the careful consideration of the MAP Team:

The GPT ownership and operations responsibility hierarchy needs additional explanation, specifically to provide specific accountability for potential harmful accidents and cumulative degradation to the impacted environs in the broader zone of influence attributable to this Applicant's proposal, in two parts;

A. As described in the Application, the ownership of the terminal seems largely dis-associated from 'ownership' of any problems that may occur that damage either public resources, the existing built community or the health of human and fauna. 
Specifically, which entity or combination of entities will be responsible for either, human or environmental damages?

The applicant's proposal appears to limit its liability to successive, shelled layers of corporate structure, with no ultimate responsibility identified or committed to. 
Is this the Applicant's accurate intent ?   
If so, what guarantee(s) of responsibility is the Applicant willing to provide? 
If outside insurance is to be used for this purpose, to what limits? 
Will a public entity be able to control these funds and timely determine when and where they will be used?

B. As described in the Application, the Applicant appears to assume no responsibility for the actions of its supply chain partners, either Peabody Coal, BNSF Railway Co. or any of the various owners or operators of the Marine Vessels expected to transport bulk coal and other cargoes to foreign clients. 
Please explain exactly where does each supply chain party's responsibility begin and end? 

The Applicant asserts it will never 'own' any of the bulk commodities it will handle, but merely charge what amounts to a toll only for the unloading, materials handling and loading operations. 

Since some parts of these bulk commodities -primarily coal- will find their ways into the soils, waters, and air in -and outside- the vicinity of the proposed terminal, who will 'own' these fugitive particulates, liquids and gases? 
By means of example, please explain the following using and/or citing a recognized scientific basis:

• What will happen to coal and other 'dust' collected by various means, including bag-houses, onsite? 
Will it be considered a hazardous waste?
How will this be disposed? 

• What will happen to fine coal particles and other sediments collected by the various storm water and/or water treatment systems proposed? 
Which, if any, will be considered as hazardous waste?
How will these be disposed?
How will the stormwater and process water spray effluent be disposed, and to what standards?

• What methods are proposed to measure, monitor and control coal dust particles - especially PM 2.5 and PM 10 - generated from railcar unloading, materials handling conveyor system, and ship loading at the terminal from being carried offsite? 
At the coal railcar unloading facility, a pole building with roof and open sides, what does a vent stack 'opacity of 10%', equate to in terms of lbs per day of particulates?
How much is likely to be lost by wind blowing through this open shed?
What air pollution liability will be assumed by the applicant? How will this be amount be monitored, determined and paid?

GPT: EIS Scoping Comment No. 2

Scope of Project

This morning, the Cascadia Weekly's Gristle topic - Xwe' chi' eXen -  covered the Lummi Nation's recently stated opposition to the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal, which together with growing linkage between Northwest communities demonstrates expanding concerns about GPT and its obvious, wide-spread potential adverse impacts.

Readers should take encouragement from this article and understand their concerns need to be expressed -during the next 3 months- directly to the MAP Team responsible for scoping the GPT EIS. 

Monday's blog gives essential details of how this can be done, plus an example comment I have submitted.

Remember, the more of us who speak up, the better chance we have to mitigate harmful impacts that may cost us far more than any benefits we derive from GPT being built and operated!
Here is a second comment I submitted yesterday:

September 25, 2012

Mr Tyler Schroeder, Whatcom County
Mr Randel Perry, U.S. Corps of Engineers
Ms Jeannie Summerhays, Washington State Department of Ecology

Subject: Scoping for Draft EIS for Proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal, Cherry Point, Whatcom County

As a Bellingham resident and former elected official, I am submitting these concerns for careful consideration by the MAP Team:

The geographical 'scope' described in the GPT Application Document seems unusually -even grotesquely- small since the Applicant wishes to limit it to the immediate site's footprint, a total of only 350 acres. 

That claimed limitation grossly understates the actual zone of influence of the proposed GPT facility and needs to be greatly expanded to include not only much more of the immediate surrounding area, but also all the dozens of communities and hundreds of crossings through which the railroad rights of way pass in the supply chain to transport PRB coal to the proposed facility.
I am encouraged by the MAP Team's decision to hold seven public hearings at various locations along the railroad route through the State of Washington, and hope that signifies an intent to appropriately evaluate potential impacts in a wider area.

However, the estimated annual shipping traffic of four hundred and eighty seven [487] very large Panamax and Capesize Bulk Carriers will create unprecedented vessel traffic, not only in the scenic, narrow and sensitive Salish Sea, but in the Straits of San Juan de Fuca and major great circle shipping lanes through the Aleutians and on to Asia. 
That volume of vessel traffic brings with it all the risks of concentrated congestion, collisions, spills, interference with fishing and pleasure craft, and general degradation of the uniquely beautiful and highly valued San Juan Islands, a leading attraction to our area.

The proposed GPT facility is nothing more than a nexus, planned specifically to attract very heavy coal-carrying traffic, both incoming and out-going, thus spreading its zone of directly related impacts quite broadly.
For that reason, the EIS Scope needs to recognize this reality and evaluate these broader impacts commensurately.

At a minimum, a detailed evaluation needs to be performed which identifies all safety and Level Of Service impacts at each railroad track crossing, and suggests suitable mitigation and their associated costs. 
The communities affected can ill afford enduring either the impacts imposed or the costs of their mitigation - if indeed any mitigation is possible.

Evaluating potential marine vessel impacts is more problematic and will necessarily involve multiple stakeholders, including federal and state agencies among others. 
This effort will need to focus on problem avoidance, including emergency planning with emphasis on proven preventative measures to preclude accidents, plus requiring publicly accessible and adequate contingency funding -including mandatory insurance- to timely pay for any mishap that may occur.

Very truly yours,
John B Watts