Tuesday, October 2, 2012

GPT: EIS Comment No. 9

Financial Underpinnings

I have some concerns over the long term financial underpinnings upon which the GPT proposal is based, notwithstanding the deep-pocketed backers including Goldman Sachs. 
 The GPT proposal seems a distinct major departure from prior projects undertaken by SSA-Marine, one so ambitious that is expected to practically double SSA's reported annual revenues.
 Every such venture has a 'pro forma' basis for it to be seriously considered for advancement and undertaken, and so must GPT, with its reported corporate secrecy and opportunistic aggressive operating philosophy and lack of management experience in building and operating a large bulk terminal with the potential of creating so many collateral social, environmental and economic problems. 

What underlying assumptions are baked into this proposal that make it so attractive to the investment partners, besides a quick payout and avoidance of liability? 

What is GPT's best case scenario? A 10-year, or better, payback?

At what point would the idea become so much less attractive that the proposal would simply be withdrawn?
 Is GPT a truly long-term commitment to the economic health of our community, as is being claimed so loudly, or is it simply an opportunity to make a quick buck by flipping any favorable permitting result into a sale to another owner(s)?

Our community needs to know these answers with some degree of certainty to make sure the expectations for jobs, increased local business activity and the generation of new tax revenues to support local government, is fully realized by both the public and the final decision-makers. 

This EIS Scoping is serious business and needs to develop some serious answers that we can count on, before we commit to GPT our hopes for economic, ecological and social improvement. 

It is the community that must live with these results, not some financier or executive sitting in privileged silence and opulence somewhere else!

My concern is that the GPT proposal is built upon a questionable foundation that sits upon these several variables, among possible others: 

• natural resource extraction of a relative low value commodity [something more worthy of  a desperate, third world country]

• volatile and fluctuating global prices  [risky and often resulting in a race to the bottom]

• a 19th century technology that is known to have harmful impacts worldwide  [a step backwards into history that arrogantly disregards healthful common sense]

• a capital intensive method of transport logistics  [why ship relatively low value goods halfway around the world?]

• a business model that depends upon economies of scale and materials handling efficiency to compensate for an inherent lack of profitability  [a ticket to disaster, especially in the global economy]

• risky weather and other natural conditions that often and sometimes unpredictably threaten land, sea and air, often in sensitive areas  [very large, single hulled, single screw ships carrying a flammable cargo in dangerous conditions; a disaster waiting to happen]

• reliance upon foreign competitors to buy coal at prices that insure profits over a long time.  [a fool's dream]

• excessive focus on a low-tech business model that avoids other, value-added products and modern, domestic technologies that are much more likely to provide more good jobs and sustain our economy in the future.  [opportunistically shortsighted] 

• creating at least as many harmful and disruptive impacts as benefits, and externalizing these costs to others, including taxpayers, governments, businesses affected and future generations.  [not the sort of behavior normally expected of a good corporate neighbor]

• failing to understand the finite nature of our essential resources on this planet that must sustain us all.  [just plain stupid]

• buying into the flawed theory that indiscriminate, continual growth is necessary, good and unavoidable.  [the philosophy of a cancer cell; unsustainable, neanderthal thinking]

• deliberate denial of the environmental policies adopted by the States of Washington and Oregon, both of which have decided to phase out coal fired power plants. Shipping coal to China will mean the coal burned there will create the same atmospheric pollutants that harm us, without any benefits.  [willful ignorance and distain for policies and regulations deemed necessary for human and ecological health]

• forceful intrusion into areas and regions unprepared for the congestion and dangers inherent in massive unit trains and marine bulk carriers that threaten the very communities and sensitive environments they pass through on the way to foreign 'markets'.  [callous disregard for preservation of the planet and its people]

Surely, there are better business models for providing the same -or greater- benefits now being claimed by GPT.

What assurance can this community have that the present owners -SSA- will maintain ownership for the designed life of this facility [50 to 75 years], should it be built?