Patty Murray’s S. 942

 

While Mayor Pike’s announcement in oppositionto the proposed coal export terminal in Whatcom County is an important step in getting public officials to publicly oppose coal export from GPT, there is more work to be done in the area of local and national politics.


Take for example, Senator Patty Murray’s S. 942 Transportation Infrastructure Grants and Economic Reinvestment Act. Please take the time to read it closely, but in summary it is an all-purpose transportation infrastructure bill with a big bucket of money that could finance such things as the GPT piers, associated rail and road construction, and wetland mitigation. 

Oh…paid for by taxpayers should also be mentioned. 

There is no exclusion of coal export terminals in the bill either. However, it does exclude the “cost of dredging activities (3b),” which seems to make this bill tailor-maid for GPT.  A trojan horse, as one person put it.

At this stage, SGSF is interested in collecting as much information as we can about this bill. Please email us with your thoughts, comments, insights, and research. We will follow-up this post with a recommended course of action.

Until then, we’ll leave you with a bit of public information that we think may be relevant to understanding this process.

In a 2009 Public Financial Disclosure Report for Patty Murray, her husband, Rob Murray’s, retirement account with SSA Marine is valued between $250 & $500K.  Yes…SSA Marine, the largest marine operator in the world that wants to build a the largest coal export terminal in the country in Whatcom County. 


As the Seattle Weekly states in 2004, while “this connection is not widely known, it’s no secret.”
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Railroads and Coal

It was great seeing everyone gathered for the McKibbon event tonight, committed to standing up for what we believe is right and doing our part to stop coal exports from Cherry Point (and beyond). Thank you to REsources for hosting the event.

We’d like to share a video with you that is put out by Freight Rail Work to promote Railroads and Coal as a Unique Partnership. While this is intended to be a promotional video, you may feel otherwise. We’d love to hear your thoughts, because we certainly have our opinion.

Also, a reminder that Mayor Pike of Bellingham will hold a listening session regarding the coal terminal at 6pm on Wed, June 1 in the large courtroom in Municipal Court. 

Early next week we will begin much more regular posts to this blog with the intention of sharing a scope of materials that we find to be particularly interesting and relevant to the proposed GP Terminal at Cherry Point. Some of these posts will elaborate on the “Dirty Trail” tidbits we shared on our banner tonight, as well as other bits of information such as the video shared above. We will also continue updates on action items.

Please consider subscribing to our blog in the right column so that you are notified when updates are made to the site. In addition, our listserv is conservatively used for announcing events and working group meetings.

Upcoming Events: Bill McKibben and Mayor Pike

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RE Sources is hosting Bill McKibben at the Fairhaven Village Green on Tuesday, May 31st at 5:00pm.  The event starts with an information fair and a performance by local band Mille and The Mentshn at 5pm, Bill will take the stage at 7:00. This event is free and open to the public. Invite your friends and neighbors! Click here for more information.

The following evening, Mayor Pike of Bellingham will hold a listening session regarding the coal terminal at 6pm on Wed, June 1 in the large courtroom in Municipal Court. It is important for county residents to make a showing at both the McKibben event and at the listening session to be sure that our voices and concerns are adequately represented and expressed. For those of us living along the alternative or inland route, you might want to brief your self on Mayor Pike’s firm stance towards BNSF considering this route for coal transport and prepare to speak at the meeting in response to similar assumptions.

While BNSF followed Pike’s public comments with their own public announcement claiming that the shoreline route is the only practical route to the proposed GP terminal,we’ll be posting a few facts here on why we don’t trust BNSF. For now, consider attending these events to speak up and defend Whatcom county-wide from the proposals currently on the table from SSA Marine and BNSF.

Bittersweet

NOTE: Our bi-monthly working group meeting for Tuesday May 17th has been RELOCATED to the Van Zandt Community Hall, 7-9. Please extend the invitation to neighbors across communities and counties.

You have probably learned that BNSF execs have been all over town announcing that the coal trains in route to the proposed GP coal export terminal will go through Bellingham and will not go through the South Fork Valley.  While this announcement may seem logical to those familiar with the environmental and structural realities of the route, it is bittersweet. Oh…and talk is cheap and dangerous.

The fact is that there is no shortage of coal to be shipped. If the GP Terminal is built and afterwards BNSF decides to add the Highway 9 route, it is just an internal routing decision rather than a permitted action. It is up to us to continue making our case to be included in the Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] for the proposed GP coal terminal. This announcement should not pacify us to stop taking actions to shape the public policies and decisions that will affect our businesses, land, air, water, and quality of life.

The Highway 9 route is, as always, an alternative route. Each time the Shoreline tracks are shut down [because of mudslides] or overloaded [because of increased rail traffic], trains reroute to the Highway 9 route. Presumably, this will happen more and more frequently when coal trains extending 1.5 miles long become frequent to our region.

SafeGuard the South Fork is taking the stance that ‘announcements’ of this or that by BNSF, SSA, or anyone else should not dissuade collective citizen power and strength by residents in Whatcom and Skagit County concerned about Big Coal turning our communities into a transportation corridor for their Asian markets. 

Recap: Coal Train Forum

Thank you to everyone who came out to the Acme Elementary School tonight. It was great to hear the wisdom of the community alongside two informative speakers.

Bob Ferris of RESources discussed the scope of the environmental and social impacts of the proposed coal shipping terminal at Cherry Point. While his discussion certainly included information on the potential train impacts in the South Fork and upon Bellingham, we also learned about the additional environmental and social concerns related to the large-scale project that ranged from understanding the mining source at the Powder River Basin, to identifying the ecological impacts on wetlands at Cherry Point, as well as articulating the larger global concerns regarding the true cost of coal export to China.

Jeff Margolis drew on his expertise developed through his service on the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Commitee. Jeff took a realist look at the proposed costs the county would be required to absorb in order to ensure safe public rail crossings that could handle the increased train traffic to Cherry Point. At present these crossings, by the way, range from gates and lights to nothing. Considering the leap in train traffic that would come with the Cherry Point coal export plan, the number of overpasses necessary to ensure public safety would offset much of the tax benefits forecasted in favor of the proposal. Jeff closed with a song and a recommendation for us to keep a 100-year mind, because from an intergenerational perspective 100 years is not long, particularly for families that have already been in the South Fork for longer than this amount of time.

Another highlight from tonight is that we took a step towards addressing the issue for ourselves. We showed up, shared, learned, and [in]formed opinions. Thank you! The conversation was passionate and forward thinking.

With this, there is quite a bit of work to be done in the next couple of weeks to define avenues for voicing concerns. We hope to continue conversations with other organizations working on this issue and to update you here about events, action items, and other opportunities to remain involved. We will also be getting an email list and Facebook page up and running soon.

Thank you to those who offered their assistance to work on the many action items that were expressed at the meeting tonight. If you are interested in spending some time on these needs/requests, please let us know at: info@safeguardthesouthfork.org.

Oh…and keep your ears open for a regional National Public Radio [NPR] story tomorrow on tonight’s forum and SafeGuard the South Fork.

We each hold a piece and a story, so thank you for sharing!
Nicole

Event: Coal Train Forum

Coal Train Forum
Acme Elementary School
April 28, 7:00-9:00PM

A community discussion of the possibility for round the clock, mile-and-a-half-long, open load coal trains to travel through the South Fork in route to the proposed Gateway Coal Terminal at Cherry Point.

Coal trains have a history of degrading human health, water, and agricultural & forestry lands, making communities along the “inland route” through Burlington, Sedro Woolley, Acme, Van Zandt, Deming, and points north and west out to the coast particularly vulnerable.

Speakers:
Bob Ferris, Executive Director, RESources for Sustainable Communities, Bellingham, WA will discuss the Proposed Gateway Terminal

Jeff Margolis, Proprietor, Everybody’s, Van Zandt, WA will present on “Safeguarding Public Rail Crossings.”

Nicole Brown, on behalf of Safeguard the South Fork, will facilitate a community dialogue and present action items.