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Climate Change and Coal Export: Taking Responsibility

by James Wells

Coal dust blows at Westshore coal terminalCoal dust blows at the Westshore coal terminal in Tsawwassen, British Columbia, April 2012. Photo: Jerry Bierens, Delta Optimist.

We have had our say, for the moment, in the public comment phase of EIS Scoping about the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT). As the agency folks work through our thousands of comments, it’s worth looking at how the findings of the EIS may ultimately be used by the agencies.

The ultimate agency decisions on GPT will be in the set of permit determinations and similar actions taken by various agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington State Department of Ecology, Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands and the Whatcom County Planning and Development Services (PDS). A dozen or more permits will be required for the coal terminal to be built and for it to operate.

In theory, to deny any one permit would stop the entire activity. Absent all of the required permits, the coal terminal would not be allowed by law. But it may be better to think of the permit determinations as being like a jury in a capital case: a unanimous jury is required, sure, but a case with just one or two holdouts generally finds itself back in the deliberating room until a unanimous verdict is reached. For GPT, one permitting holdout would be the target of a storm of litigation and political pressure, while a scenario with several permits denied would very likely stop everything.


Aggregates West Goes Into Receivership to Avoid Bankruptcy

by Meredith Moench


Part 11

Attorney Lesa Starkenburg had an unexpected announcement to make at the April 10 briefing before Whatcom County Hearing Examiner Michael Bobbink. The council chambers were hushed as a stunned audience heard her tell him that her client had entered into voluntary receivership. The briefing was being held to review progress in resolving compliance issues at the Lummi Island quarry.

A legal notice in The (Everett) Herald newspaper announced that Aggregates West, Inc. and Valley View Sand and Gravel, Inc. had entered into receivership in Washington State Superior Court in Snohomish County on March 12, 2013. Both companies are owned by David Grainger of Sardis, Canada. Resource Transition Consultants, LLC was appointed by the court to take control of the companies’ assets.


Bellingham’s Dioxin Mountain: What Is “Public Protection,” Anyway?

by Richard Jehn

Bellingham's dioxin mountain.City worker near dioxin-contaminated soil at Cornwall landfill on the Bellingham waterfront. Photo: Bellingham Herald.

It was good that The Bellingham Herald headlined the waterfront dioxin problem recently.1 Unfortunately, the key issue remains largely ignored. We should be more concerned with how we define “public protection” when we often do not understand the effects that our constant use of non-natural chemistry has on us and our environment. The cavalier approach that western society has taken to toxic substances has yielded some unhappy results.


Beaks and Bills: Walking Whatcom Creek

by Joe Meche

Whatcom FallsA pastoral morning at Whatcom Falls in Bellingham, something you would see on a walk described in the article. Photo:

The basic concept of realizing a sense of place is to locate any space that offers a feeling to you that is beyond the mere geography of the location itself. In the 36 years that I’ve lived in Bellingham, no other place has captured that feeling for me as much as Whatcom Creek. From Scudder Pond, across Electric Avenue from Bloedel-Donovan Park, and three miles downstream to its mouth on the Bellingham waterfront, the creek holds a special place for me. Except for the flood control gates that regulate the level of Lake Whatcom, the creek flows the same as it always has − unrestrained. This waterway is a major part of the history of the city itself and the wildlife corridor it provides through the heart of Bellingham is at times extraordinarily active, yet always comforting.

Few cities of this size can boast of an active salmon stream bisecting a densely populated core and flowing year round to saltwater. The stream has been at the forefront of the efforts of numerous individuals and organizations to maintain the health of this riparian corridor despite the continuing growth of the city around it. What was often used as conduit for waste has now become a showpiece for the healing power of natural places in the human psyche. On the many walks I’ve made along any part of Whatcom Creek, I often forget that I’m in the middle of one of Washington’s largest cities.


No Net Loss: The Myth of Waterfront Public Process

by Wendy Harris

Bellingham waterfront planAn artist’s conception of the waterfront redevelopment that the city of Bellingham is planning for the waterfront area near the Whatcom Creek outfall. Image: City of Bellingham.

In 2003, the City of Bellingham and the Port of Bellingham became partners in a joint project to restore and develop the Bellingham Bay waterfront. The public was provided opportunity to comment on waterfront plans, which continued to evolve and change over time. Much of this occurred as part of an informal process. The last opportunity for public input was in 2010. Since that time, the public review process has been on hold.

A revised draft waterfront proposal was released by the city and port on November 15, 2012, and finalized documents were issued a month later. The revised waterfront plans are being reviewed by the Planning Commission, which listened to public comment during two public hearings in March. After the Planning Commission completes its review, it will issue a recommendation for City Council consideration.


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