Washington’s budget continues to look bleak. Our K-12 schools need huge funding increases. Our state’s roads and bridges need repair. Colleges are being starved by continued budget cuts. Businesses struggling to keep their doors open are being targeted for tax increases.
Here in Whatcom County, we are losing good-paying jobs from good employers like CH2M Hill, Alcoa and now Faithlife. Where will the new jobs come from to replace those that support families and pay the taxes for our police, fire and schools?
We should find ways to welcome new businesses, rather than adding roadblocks to potential opportunities. I’m referring to the Gateway terminal as one example of an industry that wants to locate here with good jobs and high environmental standards.
There may be others, but they are surely waiting to see if we as a community finally welcome Gateway or make it so difficult that they move down the road to family job-friendlier places like Skagit or Snohomish counties.
The GPT coal export terminal proposal is based upon a business model that is not viable. Coal is no longer a thriving industry – coal is a rapidly dying industry. Since 2012, nearly 50 coal companies have gone bankrupt, leaving behind impoverished communities and unemployed miners. Cheap, abundant, cleaner-burning natural gas and oil are replacing coal and this decreases demand and causes the price of coal to plummet.
The costs of mining coal in Wyoming or Montana and then transporting it by trains and ships across the Pacific Ocean to Asia far exceed what coal is worth. It’s no longer possible to make money by exporting U.S. coal to Asia. Cloud Peak Energy was losing so much money sending its Wyoming/Montana coal to Asia that last October Cloud Peak paid B.C.’s Westshore Terminal $11 million in contract penalties rather than shipping its coal. Subsequently fewer coal trains have been traveling through Whatcom County going to and from B.C.’s Westshore Terminal.
Peabody Energy, provider of coal for the proposed GPT, is in deep financial trouble. Peabody Energy had a $2 billion dollar accounting loss for 2015 and now Peabody Energy is unable to borrow more money. Peabody Energy’s stock price has dropped precipitously because investors are concerned that it is nearing bankruptcy.
The free market is saying that the GPT coal export terminal proposal is a financial fiasco. The GPT proposal is wholly financed by SSA Marine, a privately owned company. Apparently spending millions of dollars prolonging a doomed project means little to the billionaire owners of SSA Marine. Maybe their egos have blinded them to economic reality. But at this point the US Army Corps of Engineers would be doing SSA Marine and everyone else a favor by immediately denying building permits for the GPT proposal. Once the financially doomed GPT coal export proposal is put out of its misery, Whatcom County can resume efforts to attract sustainable businesses that really can create permanent jobs and build a healthy, prosperous future for us all.
On behalf the school board, as well as the students and staff of the Blaine school district, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the patrons of the Blaine school district for their overwhelming endorsement of the four-year levy initiative.
It is a tribute to the citizens of Blaine, Birch Bay and Point Roberts, and their continued dedication to the education of students, that school-related tax measures have realized such a high level of support over the past two years.
We are now positioned to make much needed upgrades to school facilities, while being able to assure that the quality programs that are currently in place can be sustained into the future. We are most grateful for your approval of this critical measure.
Ron Spanjer, superintendent
Blaine school district