(This commentary was originally published in The Northern Light, Letters to the Editor, December 11-17 edition)
Commentary by Paula Rotundi
There are three existing Cherry Point businesses – BP Refinery, Alcoa-Intalco Works and Conoco-Phillips – and none of them has endorsed the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT). The GPT proposal gives our existing Cherry Point industries significant reasons for concern. For them, GPT would be a horrific neighbor.
In a 2011 court case, BNSF testified that coal trains destabilize railroad track beds and cause train derailments. GPT’s 18 daily coal trains would use the very same railroad track as BP’s and Conoco-Phillips’ crude oil trains and as Alcoa-Intalco’s chemical product trains. The last thing our existing Cherry Point industries need is for anything such as GPT to increase the likelihood that their trains would derail and/or explode.
GPT’s coal ships are another reason for the Cherry Point industries to oppose GPT. Not only are coal ships the biggest commercial ships on the sea – twice the size of the oil tankers allowed in Washington state ports – coal ships have the worst safety record of all commercial ships. Because coal ships are too big to move in a single shipping lane, they move down the middle, creating hazards and delays for all other industry ships and increasing the likelihood of catastrophic accidents in our local waters.
And for BP management and staff, who work so diligently to operate their refinery safely, GPT would continually assault their efforts. GPT’s six-story high, 2.5 miles of uncovered coal stockpiles would be just across the street (Aldergrove Road) from BP. Each year it’s likely that three million pounds of coal dust would escape from GPT’s uncovered coal stockpiles. GPT’s windblown coal dust would continually deposit and accumulate on BP structures, sensors and valves, increasing the likelihood of malfunction and catastrophic accident.
Our existing Cherry Point industries strive continually to operate safely. True supporters of our Cherry Point industries who carefully study the official GPT project application understand that GPT would significantly endanger the safe operation of BP, Conoco-Phillips and Alcoa-Intalco. Our existing Cherry Point industries deserve and need our community to support their safety efforts, and that means opposing the proposed GPT.