Monday, December 12, 2011

RE Sources files suit against SSA Marine for Clean Water Act violations at Cherry Point


CONTACT: Todd Elsworth, (360) 739-8458,
RE Sources files suit against SSA Marine for Clean Water Act violations at Cherry Point
Whatcom County, WA — RE Sources for Sustainable Communities today filed suit against Pacific International Terminals, Inc., SSA Marine’s subsidiary corporation created to develop the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) at Cherry Point.

“SSA Marine knowingly flaunted an array of county, state, and federal regulations when they built roads damaging forests and wetlands last summer,” said Bob Ferris, executive director of RE Sources. “And now they want immediate forgiveness for creating impacts that could take decades to recover. That is simply unacceptable.”

SSA violated the federal Clean Water Act by filling wetlands while clearing nine acres for geotechnical exploration. The clearing occurred almost two weeks after Whatcom County rejected SSA’s request for a permit revision that would have expanded the footprint of the proposed terminal. SSA’s original permit did not allow any construction in the areas cleared for geotechnical exploration.

While Whatcom County has issued a minor penalty, SSA has yet to perform mitigation or receive an after-the-fact permit from the Army Corps of Engineers for their wetlands damage.

“SSA Marine is like a motorist pulled over for speeding in a clearly marked school zone, who then claims to not deserve a ticket because they slowed down after getting caught,” said Ferris.  “We value Cherry Point, and we respect our laws and processes. SSA Marine should do the same.”

“If SSA were a small company or had a stellar environmental reputation, some measure of leniency might be called for. But these guys are the largest port operator in North America, and have a history of environmental violations. This clearing was a blatant violation of the rules,” said Matt Krogh, North Sound Baykeeper.

The suit will be handled by the law firm of Smith and Lowney in Seattle. RE Sources, a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, runs the North Sound Baykeeper program to protect marine and fresh water. Neither RE Sources nor the North Sound Baykeeper receive financial benefits from lawsuits filed under the auspices of the citizen suit provision of the Clean Water Act.


Filling and degrading a little over an acre of wetlands pales in comparison to SSA’s plans to destroy 141 acres of wetlands and degrade an additional 21 acres as part of the proposed GPT coal terminal. If built, GPT would be North America’s largest coal terminal.

“As Whatcom County starts the process of deciding whether or not to permit this coal terminal, we have to keep in mind the critical importance of the Cherry Point ecosystem,” said Krogh. “Cherry Point Pacific herring and Dungeness crab are essential to the health of the Salish Sea and fisheries in this reach. If this terminal is built, both will be threatened by the vessel traffic necessary to transport 48 million tons of coal.”

The GPT terminal would be served by up to 487 bulk carriers annually. Bulk carriers--with the worst safety record on the seas--would transit through Rosario and Haro Straits, on the east and west side of the San Juan Islands. These straits are key habitat for marine wildlife including the endangered Southern Resident orcas.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Invest in Good Banks

Yesterday I had an opportunity to spend time with the senior management team of One Pacific Coast Bank (OPCB) which is the result of a merger between One California Bank and our local leader in sustainable banking—ShoreBank Pacific. 

Kat Taylor co-founder of One California Bank was present and I was extremely impressed with her candor, vision, and mission.  She and the OPCB team totally understand the need for and obligation of banks to be socially responsible actors.  Bringing change to this broken banking system of ours—which is bringing us destructive projects like the Cherry Point coal terminal and the Keystone XL pipeline—is going to take all the awareness that the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement can possibly generate coupled with a massive migration of assets and viable lending requests to these triple-bottom line and community-focused banks like OPCB. 

The irony in this equation is that windows at the Oakland branch of OPCB were recently broken during OWS demonstrations.  To me this really demonstrates the need for message clarity and discipline.  OWS and others seeking to change the system must be surgical.  Corporations are not bad, but there are certainly bad and abusing corporations out there.  Capitalism is not bad per se but there are a myriad of abuses in our capitalistic system. 

I am not normally an advocate for adding nomenclature, but we need a term for corporations that are fiscally, environmentally and politically abusive and not generally operating in the public’s interest.  Corporations were—after all—originally chartered and given special tax privileges with the understanding that this construct was a public benefit. 

If people were acting in a manner that caused harm to many and our general well-being we would call them jerks or something stronger.  Criticism of a “jerk” is understood and certainly does not mean that we dislike all people.  The progressive movement simply needs a communication avenue that differentiates the Peabody Energy and Goldman Sachs of the world from these triple-bottom line actors.

All of us also need to get directly engaged in manners and at levels far removed from where we are today.  OWS and the entire progressive movement are on their way towards making a point.  We will not succeed in the long run unless we also make a difference.  I would urge our allies and others to look for ways to materially help those economic interests that fully embrace triple bottom line thinking.  If we seek them out, promote them ourselves, and make them successful, then we all succeed.

- Bob Ferris
Executive Director

Friday, November 18, 2011

Locust Beach Cleanup - November 19th, 2011

Saturday, November 19th
1:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Locust Beach. Get directions in Google Maps. 

Join RE Sources North Sound Baykeeper Team and WWU's Students for Sustainable Water at Locust Beach in Bellingham for an afternoon of marine debris removal and fun! 

Trash collecting equipment and light refreshments will be provided.

To bring: 
plastic buckets
sturdy shoes
water bottle  
appropriate clothing for a November day

Smart Commute and go with a friend.

To reach the beach, hike down the trail from the intersection of Locust Ave. and the railroad tracks.  Allow yourself about 10 minutes to get down to the beach. 

See you there!

Get directions in Google Maps. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Squalicum High School Takes Huge Steps to Lower Their Landfill Contribution

Thanks to the dedication of ten students and Nikki Johnson, their science teacher, Squalicum High School Environmental Club helped their school reduce the landfill waste produced during their lunch from 6 full 55 gallon containers to only 1 ½ in just one day last week. 

While Squalicum has had the Food Plus! composting service at their school for some time, a waste audit conducted by the environmental club and lead by RE Sources education staff found that 66% of the cafeteria’s garbage volume that was being sent to the landfill was actually compostable.  The motivated, enthusiastic Environmental Club students were taken back by that number and pushed themselves to make a change - it seems to be working.  On Wednesday, October 19th the club members made a short presentation during each of the two school lunches about the waste audit and their findings.  Then, they announced their commitment to reduce their school’s waste by 50% and join Sustainable Connection’s community-wide Toward Zero Waste (TZW) campaign.  The huge banner that stated the commitment, “We Pledge 50% Less Waste”, was signed by their fellow students throughout lunch and club members monitored the bins to help students understand the new TZW signage and assure that compostables and recyclables were going in the correct containers. 

A little education and some motivation can go a long way, and here, you can see the results –  these students were able to get the 75% of the waste that they found going to the landfill in the correct place.  Squalicum High School is a great example of how inspired students can bring big changes to their school.  The janitorial staff will continue to monitor the waste bins and if the reduction trend continues, they will downsize their landfill garbage service with Sanitary Service Company.  Not only will Squalicum be doing their part to save space in landfills, but they will be saving their school money on waste bills.  

Way to go Squalicum and keep up the good work!  

RE Sources looks forward to supporting many more regional schools in a similar way during the upcoming year (with funding support of Whatcom County Solid Waste Division).  

If you know of an interested school, send them our way.

- RE Sources’ Youth Education Program staff, Katie Fleming and Riley Grant

Monday, October 31, 2011

Deception Pass

In the Puget Sound area, diesel particulate matter (DPM) accounts for most of the potential cancer risk from all air toxics.10  Puget Sound Clean Air Agency

I was participating in another Cherry Point coal terminal debate the other day and my opponent was taking me to task over my assertions (backed up by 170 doctors in Whatcom and Skagit Counties) about the “alleged” danger of diesel particulates.  Actually, that is not accurate--what he was really trying to do was bury my information under other information so that what I presented seemed inconsequential.  And while this was going on, all I could think about was Deception Pass.

Deception Pass got its name because Joseph Whidbey thought that Whidbey Island was a peninsula rather than an island.  In short, Joseph was “deceived” by this seemingly insignificant stretch of water.  The mass of land and vegetation clouded his perception and he basically could not see the seas for the trees.  Research and investigation, however, yielded another all together different answer.

The “diesel particulate” deception starts with the practitioner completing an accounting of all sources of particulates in Washington.  Wood smoke, road dust, agriculture and stationary industry emit by far the most particulates.  Diesel particulates from semis, trains, and ships combined are less than five percent of the total particulates.  At only five percent of the total particulate load, how can diesel particulates possibly be much of a problem? 

My only response on this is: Go back to the top of this piece and look at the rather declarative statement from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and then visit the similar statement by the Washington Department of Ecology.  Also, compare the three pie charts contained on page 3 of the PSCAA publication and realize that the core differences between the three areas profiled are their relative distances from or the size of their ports.  If the top quote is true and diesel particulates are on the rare side, the inescapable conclusion is that they are different—far more risky—than the other types of particulates.  This is exactly why NRDC and other are trying to get diesel particulate emissions from railroad yards declared hazardous wastes. 

Think about the above and now watch this video about the mysterious health impacts observed near the Port of Seattle.  How does this make you feel about being told not to worry about the diesel particulates because there is much more wood smoke?  How does this make you feel about the public relations firm that creates arguments like this and the lobbying group that added the diesel particulate deception to the talking points of the Cherry Point coal port proponents? 

The Deception Pass story is a charming one.  It is one of many regional aspects that make this region so desirable.  The diesel particulate deception is not charming at all and we cannot let this deception pass.  

Bob Ferris, Executive Director
RE Sources for Sustainable Communities

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Event Tonight! Coal Facts for our Community

Coal facts for Community Boat Owners, Suppliers and Surface Water Sportspersons. 
Bellingham Cruise Terminal
355 Harris Avenue
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Mayor Dan Pike, Matt Krogh, Frank James, and Fred Felleman will answer your questions about the Gateway Pacific Terminal and increased coal trains in Whatcom County.

The event is free and refreshments are provided.

For questions call Thelma Follett:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Stormwater Heroes - Star Rentals

Star Rentals is located in the Stonegate Business Park in Ferndale, and is one of the newest equipment rental businesses in Whatcom County.   The stormwater from all the businesses (including solid waste transfer stations, a bus company, a rendering facility, woodchips stockpiling, sheet metal manufacturing, and others) in this industrial park eventually ends  up in Silver Creek, which supports coho and chum salmon, and spawning and rearing habitat for steelhead and cutthroat trout.

The staff at Star Rentals regularly washes muddy machinery in their covered wash bay.  All the dirt and solids washed from the machinery drain into a catch basin, and then through a coalescing oil/water separator, which filters the dirty water.  The solids, captured grease and oil are removed from the filter every month, and disposed of appropriately.  After the wash water flows through this filter, it is pumped to the City of Ferndale Wastewater treatment facility, where it is treated and discharged, in accordance with the City of Ferndale’s wastewater treatment permit.

Star Rentals has stepped up to the stormwater plate and we applaud their efforts and protecting water quality in Whatcom County.


The Star Story (
After Star Machinery was first established as a family-owned business in 1900, the company gained a reputation for supplying the finest industrial equipment and delivering expert service based on a thorough understanding of the customer’s needs.

As we celebrate over 110 years in the business, Star Rentals still honors our original commitment to customers, with the same values as when we first started. And in an unpredictable industry, this commitment is even more important.

For example, at every Star Rentals location, our employees have the experience and expertise that our customers expect. With training programs that are first-rate in the industry, you can trust us to recommend the right equipment for the projects you have. We can handle the unexpected, and are nimble enough to make decisions on the spot. When you work with Star Rentals, you’ve just added professionals who are skilled, knowledgeable, and easy to work with.
Our approach has always been to be accessible to customers, and we never lose touch with you. We get to know you–and your business–so we can handle any of your equipment needs, whether large or small. With Star Rentals as your partner, you are assured of exceptional service and follow-through on every transaction. We are there for you.

In this industry, we know you have many choices. When it comes to equipment rental and sales, we’d like your first choice to be Star Rentals. And we will continue to work hard to make that happen.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

RE Sources files 60 day notice of intent to sue SSA Marine for Clean Water Act violations at Cherry Point

RE Sources files 60 day notice of intent to sue SSA Marine for Clean Water Act violations at Cherry Point
Is SSA’s unpermitted land clearing a sign of what Whatcom County should expect?

Whatcom County— RE Sources for Sustainable Communities today filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue Pacific International Terminals, Inc., SSA Marine’s subsidiary corporation created to develop the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) at Cherry Point. The notice is based on Clean Water Act violations committed as part of SSA Marine’s unpermitted clearing of land and wetland modification at the site where SSA plans to build North America’s largest coal terminal.

“We waited patiently for the responsible agencies to take the proper steps when SSA Marine broke the law and violated water quality protections,” said Bob Ferris Executive Director for RE Sources. “They did not, so we are.”

This 60-day notice comes on the heels of wetland scientists at the Department of Ecology criticizing the minimal mitigation requirements issued by Whatcom County’s Planning and Development Services for the retroactive clearing permits, and failure to impose the mandatory six-year permit moratorium. 

“SSA Marine has repeatedly promised to meet or exceed health and environmental protections in developing the Cherry Point coal terminal. Yet the company’s illegal logging is part of a track record of violating environmental safeguards and calls into question whether we can trust this company in the future,” said Matt Krogh, North Sound Baykeeper at RE Sources.

A case in point is SSA’s own discharge reports at Terminal 18 in Seattle over the last year and a half that have shown pollutant levels hundreds of times the state’s allowable standards. This violation is currently the subject of litigation filed by Puget Soundkeeper Alliance in Seattle, Washington.

Another issue of concern for RE Sources is the potential for a biased process in permitting the Gateway Pacific Terminal. Locally, land owners have been served by Whatcom County with land use moratoriums even if they already had permission from the DNR to cut trees—but when SSA had no county permits and no DNR permission to cut more than 9 acres of forest and wetlands, they only received a slap on the wrist from the County.

 “Treating this violation any differently from other violations creates the impression—rightfully or wrongly—of uneven application of the statutes,” said Mr. Ferris.

“Given SSA’s history of exercising political pressure, agencies need to be especially careful to avoid the appearance of undue influence.”
RE Sources is represented by Smith & Lowney, PLLC, of Seattle.

RE Sources is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that includes the North Sound Baykeeper.  Neither RE Sources or the North Sound Baykeeper receives direct financial benefits from lawsuits filed under the auspices of the citizen suit provision of the Clean Water Act.

Bob Ferris (360) 733-8307,
Matt Krogh (360) 820-2938,

{Links below to two moratorium examples where the County took unilateral action to find conversion, regardless of DNR permits}

In this example, the DNR provided a permit for clearing, but the County imposed the 6-year moratorium anyway for failure to file the appropriate County paperwork: 

Similar in this case, except the problem is explicitly that the clear-cutter didn't obtain a County Conversion Option Harvest Plan--clearly indicating that the County, regardless of the DNR Class III Forest Practices permit, felt entitled to impose a 6 year moratorium based on the conversion determination:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

RE Sources Sustainable Living Center - Clean Energy Workshops

RE Sources Sustainable Living Center’s fall program, Clean Energy Workshops, feature Do-it-Yourself energy efficiency measures for your home, business and automobile. The series starts on Saturday, October 8th and runs until Saturday, October 29th. Clean Energy Workshops are part of a series of informative and stimulating presentations and films, partnering with other community organizations and businesses, to provide opportunities to present innovative topics to the general public for discussion, exploration, and education. 

In-home Energy Auditing and Hands-on Weatherization Training- Saturday, October 8th. Join Jim Harmon for a presentation on reducing your carbon footprint through energy efficiency measures in your home. We will discuss important considerations like indoor air quality, building diagnostics, and combustion appliance safety. Immediately following, Tom Brenton will walk us through hands-on demonstrations of weatherization measures you can take in your own home to increase temperature control and reduce costs.

An Intelligent Introduction to Solar Electricity- Wednesday, October 12th
Learn what you need to know about solar energy. Dana Brandt, founder and president of Ecotech Energy Systems will bring his local and international experience to teach you the basics of solar electricity, why it works in Whatcom County and if it would be a good choice for your home. He will also cover the myriad local, state and federal incentives for solar.

Do-it-yourself Small Scale Hydro-Electricity- Saturday, October 15th
Jeffrey Utter teaches
the basics of generating power from flowing water including System design basics, Water impoundment and transfer, Intake strategies & examples, Penstock design parameters, Generator & housing considerations, Off grid power systems, Utility intertie systems, and Government regulations.

Smart Design – Efficiency from Start to Finish- Wednesday, October 19th
Deborah Todd, Building Design Services, will present a brief personal history of the Green Building movement and how it has influenced her current interest in small homes and community building.  She'll be giving an overview of 'smart design' from passive solar and site work to advanced framing and small home design using examples from many of her projects.  Finally she will give an overview of community building looking at examples from her own community, Millworks Co-Housing and the new McKenzie Green Commons project.

Do-it-yourself Solar Hot Water
- Saturday, October 22ndSolar hot water systems can have the shortest payback of any energy upgrade. Using newer vacuum tube solar water heaters and innovative techniques can simplify and lower the costs of using solar to heat your hot water. This workshop will look at the components and simpler designs that will fit many situations. Class hand out will list where components can be purchased and costs. The instructor Chris Soler lives off grid and has been using solar hot water for the last 20 years, the last five with solar vacuum tubes.

Go Solar Bellingham/Put Sunshine in Your Wallet
- Tuesday, October 25th
Joshua Miller of Western Solar will speak about a community initiative between Western Solar, the non-profit group Community Energy Solutions of Bainbridge Island, and the new "Made-in-Bellingham" module manufacturer Itek Energy, to bring discounted solar installations to Bellingham residences through the bulk-purchase model that has been successful in several communities in the US, including the recent initiative in Queen Anne.

Introduction to DC electric vehicle conversion
- Saturday, October 29th
Jack McKee talks about his low-tech gasoline to DC conversion. Jack has converted a VW Rabbit PU to electric and has been driving it almost daily for two years. He'll talk about the building experience, the components and problems involved, including: the motor, the controller, the batteries, the charger, wiring, clutch and adapter plate.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Coal Terminal Game is Changing and Bellingham is a Star Player

I was talking with someone this weekend and they made two comments that simply amazed me.  The first was that coal terminal opponents seemed to not be making progress on the Cherry Point issue.  What?  My immediate response was to ask that person to look at statements made by project proponents in April at the City Club debate and compare them with them with the recent comments made by Faith Lumsden with the governor’s Office of Regulatory Assistance.  What seemed fast-tracked in April now seems mired. 

As facts become known and attention focused on this project the opposition grows.  Trackside mayor after trackside mayor in Washington State are stepping up to voice concerns and often opposition to this project from Bellingham to Spokane.  And just last week the Port of Skagit issued a broadly distributed letter with the line: Let there be no doubt, the Gateway project as currently proposed will have a very negative impact on our local economy.  Now some have contrived to portray this letter as conditional support for the project, but clearly their support—like RE Sources’—is for something much smaller and more right-sized for our community and others. 

So how far have things moved?  In April, we were looking at starting a scoping process in June or July.  Now the start date is anyone’s guess and no EIS contractor has been identified or even a “request for proposal” refined and issued.  Moreover, the scope of the scoping process has increased with the addition of the Department of Ecology as co-lead agency and promises of sessions in Seattle as well as Whatcom County.  We think the geographic extent of the session will only increase as more and more communities realize that this level of train traffic will bi-sect their towns and business districts. 

In April also, SSA Marine was arguing that the analyses be limited to on-site impacts and that train traffic and ship impacts should be excluded for scrutiny.  Now SSA Marine has shifted from optimistic and empowered permittee to dealing with solving problems associated with them violating county, state, and federal laws and regulations.  Much has certainly changed.

The second comment that bothered me was that Bellingham was not a player in this debate because we lacked jurisdiction and a legitimate voice.  Really?  Somehow this belief does not comport with the cause-and-effect relationship with the above movement on this issue.  What was the catalyst for the various rail town mayors to get involved?  Where did the noise originate to take the Governor from project proponent to nearly neutral on this issue?  And where would folks in this camp think that the initial beating drum was located that led to coverage of this issue from Blaine south to Seattle?  The answer in my mind is obvious and resounding: This started in Bellingham and is led—in large part—by Bellingham.

An EIS process—particularly one that involves so many and so much—is a large and complicated beast.  We in the Pacific Northwest should feel pride that we have moved the needle on this project a considerable distance from “full-speed ahead” towards “are you kidding?”  Let’s all continue to ask questions and lend our voices to this issue.  It is important work that will earn us gratitude from future generations.

Bob Ferris
Executive Director

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Moving Planet - A Day to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels

This Saturday, RE Sources is joining in the global movement Moving Planet - A Day to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels. Read the original invitation to join Moving Planet from the founder (and our friend) Bill McKibben. It reads, "The first few months of this year have been among the most exciting on record..."

Local events will compliment the global movement to find solutions to solve our climate crisis. Bike Bellingham! is organized to get people on their bicycles to converge downtown for a bike rodeo, informational booths and guest speakers- including Mayor Dan Pike and our Executive Director Bob Ferris. We are proud to participate in this community celebration.

Our community is fighting to move beyond fossil fuel use and exports as well as the companies that profit from it. Below, Bob weighs in on where we are in the process and where we are headed:

"I always read the newspaper to get a sense of the world. In the past month I have seen these stories.
  • 43 million in America are considered impoverished
  • 9 people were recently arrested at protests on Wall Street
  • The apple harvest in Washington is late
  • SAT scores in reading, science, and math are the lowest in generation
I would argue that the reason we are all here today is related to all these symptoms. Climate change or global warming is the physical manifestation of an economic system driven too hard and too long to enrich too few.

And I would also argue that the failure of an underfunded and unappreciated education system is purposely engineered to create a populace
unable to think critically and do anything other than consume the next shiny bauble put in their path. Pretty depressing.

But there is hope on our doorstep. Last April it seemed likely that our neighborhoods were going to get visited every 45 minutes by trains spewing life threatening diesel particulates and our city’s precious reputation as being a leader in sustainability was going to be buried deep under 48 million metric tons of coal and a new reputation as the largest exporter of greenhouse gases in North America. This Cherry Point project was fast-tracked.

And now it is mired. There is no permit. The EIS process has not started. The project impact analyses have broadened in scope and geography as people all along the 624 mile delivery route wake up and start looking at the facts. The alarm clock in this equation was Bellingham and our leadership. We all spoke up and made a difference.

We have to continue the Cherry Point fight—SSA Marine, Goldman Sachs, Peabody Energy, and BNSF should not be able to shove this project down our throats. And then we need to get to work on fixing our political and economic systems so that both work for us not against us. We need to change our political system so that it meets the needs of real people not corporate donors and we need to change the economic system so that our money and economic vitality are not used to destroy our planet and our quality of life. The climate has changed for far too long for us. Now it is time for us to change for the climate."

We are looking forward to coming together as a community this Saturday to make our presence known and our voices heard. Please join us for Bike Bellingham!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Stormwater Heroes - Gundie's Automotive

Gundie's Automotive Recyclers is the #1 supplier of OEM recycled auto parts from Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, BC. They were founded in Bellingham in 1961 and now operate facilities in Graham and Portland, Oregon. Their Whatcom facility houses 2,500 wrecked autos, several large buildings for dismantling, storage units, a crusher, an office, and an engine wash station. For over ten years, Gundie’s has operated under an industrial stormwater discharge permit from the Washington State Department of Ecology, and in accordance with their permit, they collect samples for turbidity, pH, visual oil & grease, copper, lead, and zinc.
Gundie’s manages stormwater in a responsible manner with a well-designed and serviceable stormwater conveyance system. It works as oily compounds are absorbed onto filters, which are regularly checked and changed. Sediment and other solids settle out in sediment traps, inside concrete vaults.

These practices are evidence of a complete transformation over the past ten years. A decade ago, when a Department of Ecology inspector visited Gundie’s on a rainy day to conduct a storm water inspection, the water running over the land looked like a “shimmering oil slick.” Since then, they have changed their practices so that all of the auto dismantling is done under cover; all fluids are removed from the autos, and stored inside, in labeled containers, with secondary containment, and no exposure to water. These actions have put an end to the shimmering oil problem, and the place is spotless now.

The clean water that flows from Gundie’s ends up in Squalicum Creek, which is important fish habitat. According to our friends at Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, Coho and Chum Salmon, and Cutthroat and Steelhead Trout all live in this creek. Steelhead are listed under the Endangered Species Act, and Cutthroat and Coho are currently candidates for listing. RE Sources applauds the efforts that Gundie’s has employed over the past decade. In 2011, they were nominated as an Environmental Heroes. RE Sources enjoys working with Gundie’s and has offered site visits in the past to see how they lead as Stormwater Heroes in our community.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sanitary Service Company's Commitment to Community

Locally owned and operated since 1929, Sanitary Service Company (SSC) is Whatcom County’s largest recycling and garbage collection company. SSC is a practitioner of numerous “award-winning” programs that align with the mission and vision of our organization- providing an exemplary model for others. They have helped Whatcom County become a nationally recognized leader in waste management and sustainable business practices. They are also valuable supporters of our organization- providing solid financial support through event sponsorships and other donations.

SSC’s environmental commitment is shown through the breadth of their sustainable business practices. Since 2005, SSC's garbage and recycling trucks have been running on biodiesel fuel, which is biodegradable, non-toxic and virtually free of sulfur and aromatics, and reduces emissions by up to 20%. "We hope our actions will encourage other local fleets to consider biodiesel as their fuel choice," said SSC Co-Owner Paul Razore. As a Toward Zero Waste pioneer, SSC practices waste reduction, reuse and recycling with more than 80% of their internal business waste. They are also using 100% of their electricity through Puget Sound Energy's Green Power program, making SSC the largest private business in Whatcom County to use 100% Green Power. SSC was also the first collection company in Washington to be included in the EnviroStars program, earning 5 stars (the highest rating possible) for their leadership activities in reduction of both hazardous and non-hazardous solid wastes, and sustainable business practices.

Eric Moe, owner of Kulshan Cycles, salutes SSC for their role in our community, "I respect and admire SSC for their commitment to our community; from the events and organizations they support to the best practices they employ in their day to day operations".

As the presenting sponsor of the 2011 Environmental Heroes Awards Banquet, SSC is helping RE Sources honor the individuals and businesses that volunteer and work on behalf of our environment and advocate for sustainable communities. We are honored and grateful for their continued commitment and the strong relationship that we have built together over the years.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gateway Pacific Terminal - update August 17th

August 17th - It has been a fairly busy week already with talk of a 6-year moratorium being imposed on SSA Marine for destroying 9.1 acres of habitat that included trees, wetlands, and an archaeological site without a permit. (Thanks Jean for the posts)

This week also saw one of the first broadly circulated pieces on coal and coke dropping off trains in the area. This has been covered by us before ( but it is nice to see it covered on KING 5 TV as well.

This week also saw an opinion piece by Marysville’s mayor about current train traffic issues and how this 30 miles of added trains would cripple an already impacted system.

And last but not least, many of you in the Bellingham area may have gotten an e-mail from Karl Kleeman the president of the local railroad museum. Mr. Kleeman was critical of Whatcom DOCS efforts to talk about the potential health impacts of the terminal. Below is my response to Mr. Kleeman’s issues (his points are in italics). As usual, read all of this and pass it and the links along. And thank you all for you efforts, you are all doing a wonderful job.

Response to Karl Kleeman:

Dear Mr. Kleeman,

I am in receipt of your recent electronic communication regarding the coal trains. I take issue with your four points/questions (in italics) as follows:

1. How much diesel exhaust would you expect compared to the diesel exhaust
from all the trucks on I 5. Modern locomotives have some of the best clean
running diesels made. Complete burning of the fuel also makes them more
cost efficient. And of course the diesels are not moving the locomotive,
they are diesel electrics and the electric motors move the locomotive.

Yes modern diesels are more fuel efficient and emit less nitrogen and greenhouse gases than do diesel powered tractor trailer rigs. Unfortunately, when it comes to diesel particulates there is not a huge difference in the grams/ton mile of PM released (please see BNSF power point slide in Moreover, all indications are that the more we look at diesel particulates—especially those under 2.5 microns as well as the even smaller nano-particles—these very problematic health-wise. For the doctors in Whatcom County to characterize them otherwise would be irresponsible.

2. The noise from train diesels is not very significant compared with I 5 and other noise producers. The trains have to blow their horns by law to
keep people off the tracks.

Do you live near the tracks? Because for those of us who do this noise is non-trivial. We worry about its health impact as well as its impact on property values. Looking at what this project could add to an already difficult condition, one has only to multiply required horn blasts (5) by at-grade crossing (5) by number of trains at full capacity (9) by number of trips per day (2). This exercise yields 450 additional horn blast a day. Moreover, adding current traffic to projected traffic means one train every 45 minutes 24/7. This passes far beyond a trivial impact.

3. A mile long train going 20 mph, the speed limit in Bellingham will block
an intersection for 3 minutes. And if instead of saying no coal trains, we
said, put in a couple more overhead or underpass train crossings, we would
really help the traffic problem that already exists with the current train

Your estimate on train length is short by 50% and your speeds are optimistic. Empirical data are indicating 5-8 minutes but at Post Point where these 17500 ton trains often come to a full stop and have to start up again, we are seeing blocked crossings closer to 10 minutes and even longer if another train traveling in the other direction is involved. And while it is nice to talk about overpasses as a solution, federal law puts the burden of those types of improvements (90% or more) squarely on the shoulders of the tax payer and not the railroad.

4. The coal dust thing is just nonsense. Little if any as the train passes
through Bellingham and the terminal plans the newest in containment like the
coal will be dumped in a negative pressure building, no dust released and
even the coal conveyors will be enclosed and under negative pressure.

Just because the coal dust issue is complicated and at times unpredictable does not mean it does not exist or is nonsense. What does not exist is a coal dust free coal terminal or a working example of some of the technologies suggested by SSA Marine. They claim that the place where they unload rail cars will be under negative pressure (not the conveyors), but that leaves 80 acres of open mounds as well as dust scattered during handling and by the repeated movement of the elephant snout or snorkel loaders as they iteratively move from hold to hold to load ships evenly. Every place we have seen this technology employed we have seen decks covered with coal dust which ultimately finds its way into the water column. And all major coal terminals in North America have coal dust issues some of them currently under litigation.

I understand your love of trains. I love them too and see them as a solution when used appropriately and in the proper scale. This project violates both of those conditions. Rejection of this project is in no way a no-confidence vote on trains, but rather a condemnation of a project whose scale and cargo threaten the quality of life and health of folks all along the 624 mile delivery route in Washington State. Let’s stick to the facts and keep trains on the right track.

Bob Ferris

Friday, August 19, 2011

Time Magazine's "Hero of the Planet", Denis Hayes, keynote speaker for Environmental Heroes

Hero of the Planet, Denis Hayes to keynote 2011 Environmental Heroes Awards.

Denis Hayes Earth Day Founder
Denis Hayes, is an author, advocate, professor, and sustainability leader. National Coordinator of the first Earth Day, Hayes is well known for spreading the world’s most widely observed secular holiday to over 180 nations. Internationally recognized as a leader in environmental and energy policy, Hayes was named “Hero of the Planet” by Time Magazine.

Over his vast career, Hayes has served as head of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, professor of engineering at Stanford University, chair of the board of trustees of the Energy Foundation and the American Solar Energy Society, board member of Stanford University, the World Resources Institute, The Energy Foundation, the Federation of American Scientists, Greenpeace, CERES, Children Now, and the Environmental Grantmakers Association, to name a few.

Denis Hayes

Hayes has received the Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Public Service, and the highest awards bestowed by the National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Council of America, the Global Environmental Facility of the World Bank, the American Solar Energy Society, and much more.

Through his current work as the President of the Bullitt Foundation, Hayes endeavors to make the Pacific Northwest into a global model for sustainable development.

Watch Video of Denis:

In honor of Earthday 2011, Denis Hayes, is interviewed on his "vision that changed the world" by Evening Magazine on King 5 News. The Seattle station's Michael King invites you to "meet the local guy who kick started us on the way to thinking, talking and doing something about the mess we make". Denis reflects on the first Earthday and the progress the nation has made in the more than 30 years since.

Watch Denis speak with King 5 News on "The Most Energy Efficient Building in the World" - Video

"Imagine a downtown Seattle building where you pay no energy bills. A building so green, it acts more like a living organism than a mix of metal and mortar. One is being built in Seattle right now. KING 5's Eric Wilkinson reports".

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Crazy Couple of Weeks for Coal

At the very time we were anticipating SSA’s re-application for permits (since they were rejected a few weeks ago for being incomplete), it turns out they were already starting work on part of their property—without any permits at all to do so. The ensuing mess is summarized below.

How did this all start?

Last week, County Councilman Carl Weimer, while walking his dog in a favorite area of Cherry Point, took the time to investigate what looked like suspicious activity on SSA’s property, which they hope to use for the Gateway Pacific Terminal. He blogged about it here:

SSA Release 1: In which SSA denies any wrongdoing:

July 29
Work on the site comes as a surprise to officials:

July 30—August 3
Analysis of what was actually done and where:

August 1st
King 5 TV--Bob Ferris and Pete Kremen agree—SSA wasn’t allowed to do that:

Radio--Carl Weimer and Bob Watters may disagree, however:

August 2
Radio—Matt Krogh and Joe Teehan discuss the lack of any permits at all for the work SSA was doing on its coal terminal (skip to 25:00 min. into broadcast):

August 3
SSA Release 2: In which SSA admits that, in fact, there may have been wrongdoing--

Bob’s response: “The fact that a multi-billion dollar international corporation illegally damaged habitat and wetlands and disregarded best management practices in an area outside the geographic scope of their permits demonstrates a lack of attention to detail that is unacceptable given SSA Marine’s size and purported environmental ethic. The fact that their first response was a strident denial of any wrong-doing in the face of contrary evidence does not reflect well on SSA’s ethics or dedication to their inferred public trust responsibility. An eleventh-hour defensive apology does nothing to alter these two facts, because their actions have already spoken louder than their words.”

Crosscut article on SSA admitting mistakes:

Skagit County Commissioners start to get involved:

The Bellingham Herald on “Cargo terminal proposal part of national debate over jobs, environment:”

In related news, the Settlement Agreement that governs the old version of this project won’t be modified despite extensive lobbying and negotiations by SSA:

Here's what YOU can do:

These calls just take a few minutes and they are what can help STOP this!

Call Public Lands Commissioner Goldmark at (360) 902-1004
Ask him “Please, don’t use Washington’s public waters for coal export.”

Call Whatcom County Council at (360) 676-6690
Ask them to ensure that Whatcom County says “No to coal export out of Cherry Point and enforce all environmental provisions.”

Call Whatcom County Council Executive Kremen at (360) 676-6717
Simply say, "Thank You for standing up for what’s right and holding SSA Marine accountable.”

Stay tuned to RE

-written by Matt Krogh, North Sound Baykeeper