Crosscut | News of the Great Nearby, September 27, 2012
By Floyd McKay
It’s not exactly your father’s design for a public hearing, but the seven public meetings to determine the scope of the giant export terminal at Cherry Point north of Bellingham may better reflect the realities of communication in the 21st century.
Citizens interested in the Gateway Pacific Terminal, which under current plans will serve primarily to export coal to Asia, may weigh in until Jan. 21 in a variety of manners. When they are done, environmental officials will determine what should be studied among a broad variety of topics ranging from the global (coal’s effects on global warming) to the regional (increased train and ship traffic) and local flora and fauna (wetlands and herring stock).
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington Department of Ecology, and Whatcom County are jointly conducting the Environmental Impact Statement process. They hope to publish a draft EIS in 2014; it is unlikely any earth will turned for at least another year and the first coal ship is not likely to sail to Cathay much before 2020.
As scoping continues, Americans vote, and elections could affect the final determination of the coal-export process. Washington gubernatorial candidates have not focused on the matter, but Democrat Jay Inslee is pushing a green-energy program that is not in synch with coal. At the national level, Republicans in the House of Representatives recently passed a pro-coal measure and the party at all levels has been skeptical of climate change.