As an educator who works in Whatcom County, a vegetarian and a CSA purchaser from an organic farmer, I am concerned and filled with questions about the possible upcoming rezone of lands now zoned as agricultural in Whatcom County to allow industrial slaughter facilities on some 88,000 acres.
From the research that I have done, I question why a supply and demand needs analysis is not being done before this proposal moves to a vote. My next question is about health and safety issues involving groundwater, air quality and more pollution at the very least. A similar rezone of industrial slaughter facilities in Sacramento, California produced results we would not like to see duplicated here.
As a teacher, I think the county council needs to do their homework on this issue and clarify what the impacts of the rezone would be on our beautiful region.
The proposal to allow slaughterhouse facilities to operate anywhere on the 88,000 acres of zoned agricultural land in Whatcom County troubles me for several reasons.
The first is that the ongoing revisions, permutations and disputes over terminology have made it exceedingly difficult for residents to grasp exactly what is at stake. Here are some of the questions this citizen would like to see answered:
1) What is the actual number of animals (cows) currently raised in Whatcom County that are slaughtered annually and how many of them are transported out of area for processing?
2) In the proposal, the facilities could be built anywhere the land is zoned for agriculture, but much of this land lies in critical areas like flood zones, aquifer recharge zones and even shorelines. Why not exclude critical areas from the acreage available for building meat processing facilities?
3) Having seen and experienced large scale manure lagoons and consequent water and air pollution, I wonder what provisions the county government is putting in place to contain contaminants produced both in holding lots and by the slaughtering and rendering processes?
The issue has lately been framed as a property right issue. Individual property rights are vitally important, but so are clean air, water and quality, locally grown fruits and vegetables.
The Northern Light’s important article, “What will the trains bring?” raises significant concerns regarding unsubstantiated statements made by GPT consultant/spokesman, Craig Cole.
Mr. Cole’s statement that GPT “will be nearly as large” as Westshore is incorrect and misleading. The fact is that GPT would be much larger than Westshore. In 2001, Westshore shipped 21 million tons of coal and emitted 1.5 million pounds of coal dust.
Currently, Westshore ships 27 million tons of coal annually. GPT would ship 48 million tons of coal annually (GPT project application, whatcomcounty.us/pds/plan/current/gpt-ssa/pdf/20120319-permit-submittal.pd, page 133).
Like Westshore, GPT would have uncovered coal stockpiles and would attempt to control dust with water sprays and compaction, but GPT would be North America’s biggest coal stockpile.
More concerning is Mr. Cole’s statement regarding GPT coal dust that “…it can’t be a problem. The regulations require that there be no emissions or particulates leaving the boundary or property that will create a nuisance.” Surely Mr. Cole knows that the mere existence of a regulation does not make something impossible. Oil and shipping regulations didn’t prevent the Exxon-Valdez and BP Horizon disasters; regulations didn’t prevent the recent deadly fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas; and regulations don’t prevent coal terminal emissions from harming American communities.
In Seward, Alaska, residents are suing a coal-shipping terminal because coal dust damages their fishing boats, neighborhoods and scenic harbor. People living near a coal-shipping terminal in Virginia have asthma and asthma-related fatalities at a rate more than twice the state’s average.
Even the corporation proposing GPT admits in writing (project application pages 89 and 138) that GPT would put “2.75 million metric tons” of coal in an “uncovered … large, open-air stockyard,” with “five stockpiles … 2,500 feet long and up to about 62 feet high,” and that this “has the potential to generate windblown dust.”
Fact #1: GPT would put 2.5 miles of coal in uncovered piles, higher than a six-story building, exposed to the wind and rain and there would be coal dust emissions.
Fact #2: More than 205 Whatcom County doctors say there is no safe level of exposure to GPT’s toxic emissions.
I am retired and live in Birch Bay. In my professional life I was a U.S. Air Force officer with a follow-on career as a professor of organizational psychology. I was involved in training and leading men and women and dealing with human behavior. I am thinking of coming out of retirement to offer my services in a new career field which may prove to be quite lucrative.
There seems to be a need for a “coal dust trainer” at the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal who would be responsible to train the coal dust escaping from the piles to remain within the boundaries prescribed by regulations. Coal dust not remaining within the boundaries delineated by berms and trees or other mitigation efforts would be in violation of the regulations mentioned by Craig Coal (Ed. note: The writer is referring to Craig Cole, senior consultant to the Gateway Pacific Terminal Project) in the recent article by Brandy Shreve in The Northern Light.
As punishment, the ill-mannered dust would have to return to the 2.5-mile, 60' tall piles or face deportation back to the Powder River Basin from whence it came. And on their way home, they should round up their fellow fugitive lumps of coal which jumped off the train en route to GPT. These have been recently discovered by divers in the waters of Puget Sound.
I would also train the 1.9 billion gallons of water sprayed yearly for controlling dust blown by “freak wind storms” to not seep into the water table and contaminating local waters. It will be easy to train the water to defy the laws of physics and remain within the terminal area.
For compensation, I expect the same amount Craig Coal is getting, but need assurance that I would not be held accountable for the accuracy of my statements as seems to be the case with recent pronouncements from some terminal proponents.
I can be reached at my temporary headquarters next to the Via Birch Bay Café and Bistro, recently reopened after getting washed out by high waves which, by the way, were not caused by high winds in this area. I anticipate many job offers from concerned citizens who see past the smoke-and-mirrors blarney of GPT advocates.
Blaine and the surrounding Whatcom County community give amazing support to kids and the arts!
The Pacific Arts Association (PAA) and its many community supporters raise funds for the Blaine Jazz Camp and Festival. With deep regret and due to unforeseen circumstances, the latest fund raiser, the Chili Cook-Off, was postponed.
The PAA is in the process of making new arrangements. If you purchased tickets, please return the tickets where you purchased them for a full refund. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your continuing support.
Look for a Chili Cook-Off update at blainejazz.org, or call 360/820-8312. Then come to cast your vote for Blaine’s Best Chili 2013!
Kristi Galbraith, executive director
Pacific Arts Association
The front-page article in the April 25 issue of The Northern Light addressed one potential adverse impact of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT).
Brandy Kiger Shreve’s article “What will the trains bring?” correctly identified coal-dust emissions from stockpiles and trains as a serious concern for many local residents. Now your readers need a follow-up article to correct the misinformation provided to Ms. Shreve by Craig Cole, spokesman for SSA Marine – the parent corporation proposing GPT, Denis Horgan, VP and general manager of Westshore Terminal, and Courtney Wallace, BNSF spokesperson. A well-intentioned feature story is only as useful and accurate as its sources.
The massive cloud of wind-blown coal dust at the Westshore Terminal on April 12, 2012 was, according to Mr. Horgan, a “freak” incident. But according to meteorological records from that day, the actual cause of that mountainous, toxic coal-dust cloud was wind blowing with a 28 mph peak gust toward Westshore’s coal stockpile. Your readers know 28 mph wind gusts and much stronger are not at all unusual for Cherry Point, the proposed site for GPT’s uncovered, six story high, 2.5 mile-long coal stockpiles.
Mr. Cole assured Ms. Shreve that coal dust “can’t be a problem” at the proposed GPT because “the regulations require that there be no emissions or particulates leaving the boundary or property that will create a nuisance.”
Less than two years ago The Northern Light reported SSA Marine disregarded all regulations and bulldozed through nine pristine acres of trees and wetlands at Cherry Point – the very same site where Mr. Cole now claims regulations would prevent GPT coal dust emissions from leaving the property. For ignoring the regulations and illegally clearing these wetlands, Whatcom County imposed a $2,000 fine and a $2,400 fee “to cover county staff costs in dealing with the issue,” on SSA Marine which essentially is no penalty at all for this corporation with annual revenue of approximately $2 billion.
Virtually every quote from the story’s three aforementioned sources attempts to whitewash and/or minimize the dangers of coal trains and terminals. Your readers deserve a fact-based follow-up.