Wednesday, April 17, 2013

GPT: A Response to April 13 Bellingham Herald Article

As promised yesterday, here is my response to the following article, published in the April 13, 2013 Bellingham Herald: Terminal's family-wage jobs, taxes would aid Whatcom County(Authors: Brent Goodrich - Ferndale City Council and Bonnie Onyon - Blaine City Council)
Article 1 of our Constitution ensures every citizen's right to free speech, including all manner of political or commercial speech that does not unduly malign either the public or other individuals.
Since both Mr Goodrich and Ms Onyon are not only citizens, but elected governmental representatives, what they have written doesn't appear to break any laws, except maybe those of good judgement and balanced accuracy. No, they are likely just expressing their opinions [wishes] while using their public status to influence others to support GPT, despite any drawbacks that plan may be found to have. 

I do find it interesting that the authors have admittedly reached their decision of unqualified support in advance - a priori - of completing the EIS evaluation; but maybe they think they know more than the rest of us, scientists and all? Maybe they do, but that seems highly unlikely.

As a retired Chemical Engineer and former elected member of the Bellingham City Council, I also have reviewed the GPT proposal in detail, and found enough insufficiently addressed or unanswered questions to cause major concerns for me as well as many others in Whatcom County and elsewhere.  A summary of 32 of these identified concerns can be found on the GPT EIS website listed under my name, for those interested.

The authors' un-equivocated acceptance of the most optimistic projections of job and revenue generation, happening immediately, also deserve much closer scrutiny! Perhaps, this factor alone explains their enthusiastic support for GPT, since no heavy lifting on their part is required for their respective municipalities to inherit large windfalls of heretofore unanticipated revenues.

Of course, these most optimistic projections are all predicated upon GPT being permitted, built and actually operated for decades; each of these steps are problematic at best. Even more important are the time delays implicit in the GPT timeline; the best projections will require 20 or more years before they might even be approached! Until that time, significantly less revenues would accrue to the Ferndale and Blaine entities expected (by the authors) to benefit the most from GPT. 

But, the other troubling aspect - entirely dismissed by the authors - is the lack of benefits accruing to other municipalities and entities that would be impacted by GPT and its related formidable array of supply trains and delivery vessels. That part, alone, is shocking, but don't forget yet another major omission, externalizing (ignoring) the costs of impacts on all municipalities and citizens as well as the local -and global- environment! 

In any business evaluation, a thorough cost/benefit analysis is a prudent, even essential, early step.
It's difficult to understand why the authors -and the proponents- would want to truncate this analysis and accept the additional risks to the public and environment that introduces, unless they consider their anticipated gains dwarf all other considerations. 

It appears the cost/benefit analysis these people propose applies only to the more limited local -and only positive- economics side of the equation, conveniently ignoring the equally important social and ecological considerations. For a truly sustainable venture to succeed, full-cost accounting (triple bottom line) is a necessity. That approach would provide a net benefit to everyone in the long-term, not just a few seeking quick, windfall profits and revenues at the expense of others.

Although the authors claim they've 'done their homework', they have miserably failed both the exam and the course! Did they not know that former WA Governor John Spellman, vetoed an earlier Cherry Point Terminal proposal over 30 years ago, stating that gaining a few jobs while badly degrading the environment was a bad trade-off that simply wasn't acceptable? In a Channel 9 interview on April 16, Spellman said he'd made the right decision then, and even though it did not benefit him politically, he'd make the same decision again - 'because it was the right thing to do'.

As the late Senator Patrick Moynihan once said, 'everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts'. Let's be more careful of mixing up opinions with facts, because that practice can lead to very poor decision-making that will adversely impact us for many years to come. We citizens deserve consistently good decisions from our elected officials, based upon as thorough an understanding of facts  as possible, before personal opinions are expressed, and certainly before any permits are granted and potentially harmful applications are approved. 

If Mr Goodrich and Ms Onyon aren't up to this standard, why are they in office? Thank goodness they will not be the final decision-makers!