Saturday, December 1, 2012

Coal: EIS Scoping Comment No. 30

Programmatic EIS Needed to Counter Applicant's Local PR Campaign

I am concerned with the constant, expensive, misleading and one-sided propaganda being promulgated by the GPT Applicant and its supporters, many of whom are paid for their voices. I was most recently reminded of this effort by seeing yet another slick, primetime TV advertising feature sponsored by the so-called 'Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports', claiming GPT has far wider support than seems credible. Their catch-phrase is BUILD TERMINALS HERE. BUILD JOBS HERE. This intensive campaign demonstrates an apparent dearth of business integrity, with self-serving monied interests trying to drown out legitimate public concerns by trivializing them and demeaning the credibility of GPT skeptics and opponents alike.

In a process that already seems inherently rigged to find a way to say 'yes' to any and all proposals submitted, this Applicant is engaging in a campaign of misleading statements, testimonials and indirect lobbying of the very Whatcom County, Washington State and US Government officials, who themselves are being involuntarily sequestered and/or compelled to remain impartially uninformed in the EIS Scoping and evaluation exercise.

This kind of shameless, self-serving charade -while likely not strictly illegal- simply adds to what is already widely perceived as an unfair process that will decidedly impact the future of our community, region, nation and globe. SSA-Marine and its backers seem to embody that strained concept that 'corporations are people and money is speech', and its corollary, wealth wins. Reducing this important issue to a 'pants-on-fire' political contest does not serve the overall interests of the public, which expects a fair, impartial and fact-based process likely to result in as unbiased result as possible.

The Applicant has had its opportunity to spell out its plans, with emphasis on claimed benefits, of course. Now, the agencies need most to hear the other side of the debate, the concerns, fears, doubts about potentially harmful impacts, including an assessment of all associated costs, and what's missing that needs to be known. Fortunately, the agencies have heard enough already to conclude that a much wider scope was needed than originally anticipated, as well as more opportunities for public comment. And, both of those determinations were distinctly opposed by the Applicant, who continues to stonewall the questions it doesn't want asked and disingenuously presumes no harms can come from GPT being built and operated. Is that the profile of a corporate entity we can trust to operate a major new terminal that will necessarily attract hundreds of coal trains and ultra-large vessels to our community? Or is it a manifestation of corporate interests without the kind of business integrity that inspires respect?

There have already been repeated requests from serious-minded people for broadening the EIS process even further for GPT, and considering it a part of an entire cluster of similar proposals - a so-called 'programmatic EIS' process. That concept also seems to reflect the plainly plural meanings of the phrase BUILD TERMINALS HERE. BUILD JOBS HERE. doesn't it?
So, I also request this all-inclusive programmatic EIS idea be taken, and very seriously followed by the MAP Team, even though one USACE official has already stated that might be 'unprecedented'.
The point is, GPT, itself, is unprecedented, despite the Applicant's self-serving claims to the contrary. And, sometimes, precedents do need to be carefully set. In our unique system of government, we, the citizens, get to have early and often input into exactly that precedent-setting possibility.

Since this GPT project will impact much more than just some corporate bottom line, it should be subjected to the most thorough scoping and evaluation possible. If that is accomplished -with or without precedent- I am confident the resulting recommendations will likely be the correct ones, since citizen concerns would be heard, considered and and fairly factored into the final decisions made.