Commentary by Christine Westland
On August 15th, an op-ed by Craig Cole was published in the Bellingham Herald, giving a “Mary Poppins” version of the intentions and actions of SSA Marine/Pacific International Terminals (PIT) for the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) at Cherry Point. According to Cole, it was “human error” in 2011, when PIT accessed the Cherry Point wetlands, clearing nine acres, degrading a Native American archaeological site, and filling in 1.2 acres of wetlands while taking borings on that land without a proper permit. Professional companies who behave legally and ethically know what they are doing don’t make these kind of mistakes. For these violations, SSA Marine-owned Pacific International Terminals was sued and paid $1.6 million in fines and penalties. These actions by PIT were deceptive and show a blatant disregard and lack of respect for the Lummi Nation and Cherry Point, which was the first archaeological site to be placed on the Washington State Register of Historic Places.
Craig Cole’s Op-Ed is full of vague misinformation designed to “sugar-coat” an industrial project that can never be healthy or good for the environment, no matter how you color it. Job figures are exaggerated, because the Permit Application, clearly quotes 257 full-time permanent jobs at full build-out. Jobs are economically important, but they should be jobs which offer services and products that people need. Jobs created by transporting fossil fuels will cost the public in dollars and health and a ravished environment. Our society is addicted to fossil fuels, the overuse of which creates bizarre weather, disease, and polluted resources. For financial gain, SSA is adding to that problem rather than trying to solve it.
How will a coal-shipping terminal bring prosperity into Whatcom County? Will it be 18 more trains per day, competing with the growing number of crude oil trains and others carrying commodities? Will it be the 80 acres of uncovered coal sitting at Cherry Point with dust blowing off or running off, regardless how much water is used from the Nooksack? Mr. Cole never mentions that coal is toxic to every living organism; we will be breathing it, finding it in our soil and water, and it will cause irreparable ecological damage to the Salish Sea. It would only take one diesel or coal spill from one of the 400+ supertankers per year, to finish the job of crippling the marine industries that help sustain our economy.