Thursday, June 30, 2011

Of Garlic and Rail Traffic

I am allergic to garlic.  I eat it and I generally have a reaction to it soon thereafter.  I know this and live my life accordingly.  When I slip up or deviate, I pay a non-trivial price.  This comes to my mind as I think about this current debate over the Cherry Point coal terminal, because I am baffled by the line of reasoning that goes: We need to wait until the EIS is finished to express any notes of opposition regarding this project.  (Of course, this same dictum does not apply to those wishing to express whole-hearted support for the project.)

The above construct is specious.  I do not need a full-blown chemical analysis of a given dish that smells of garlic to know that I shouldn’t eat it.  The same is true for leaders who know that any increase in train traffic associated with this project is going to cause their cities and towns additional distress.  Therefore, it seems illogical in the extreme to castigate folks put in office—in part—for their knowledge of municipal systems when they collect information and express an informed position.  It seems like this would be a desired or at least acceptable function of their job.  It seems like this is leadership.

Now if I said I was allergic to something that I had never tried before, that would be a ridiculous position for me to take.  But this is not what we are seeing in this instance.  Folks are talking about train traffic and increased diesel particulates.  We know the number of trains from permit applications and public statements from SSA Marine and we know that trains emit diesel particulates.  Therefore, for mayors in rail traffic-impacted municipalities such as Spokane, Kent, Everett, and Marysville to express concerns about the implications about added rail traffic seems more like a core part of their job and less like an irresponsible action. 

PM: Particulate Matter

And the same goes for concerns expressed about diesel particulates.  We have figures for grams per ton-mile from numerous sources and we know—again from permit applications—how many tons will be hauled.  The rest is simple math and logic.  More particulate matter leads to higher cancer risks as well as the risk of heart disease and respiratory ailments.  The exact level of that risk is certainly in the realm of models and complex algorithms that will be the part of any reasonable EIS, but the fact of elevated risk can defensibly be concluded with nary a calculation.  This is prudency.  

What is irresponsible and disrespectful is identifying these informed comments as fear-mongering or anything other than what they are.  The EIS process is an important element of any significant project with broad impact.  It is not, however, intended to be a giant stop sign that arrests all thought and opinion, nor should it be a vehicle that inhibits actors in the debate from exhibiting leadership.

--Bob Ferris
Executive Director

Thursday, June 2, 2011

RE Sources Brings Bill McKibben to Bellingham and Inspires Hundreds

Photo Credit: Paul Anderson

On a drizzly Tuesday evening over 800 people showed up to RE Sources’ event at the Fairhaven Village Green to hear  New York Times bestselling author, co-founder of, and Time Magazine’s “world’s best green journalist,” Bill McKibben, speak about coal export, climate change, and the power of community action.

Millie and The Mentshn
The event kicked off with a concert by local favorites, Millie and the Mentshn, and an information fair featuring local and regional organizations. The organizations involved in the information fair, some of which form a No Coal Coalition, focus on preventing climate change and coal exports from Cherry Point. Community members who attended the information fair were able to get their questions answered, collect information about the impacts of Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point, and take action by signing a petition against coal exports from the Northwest. At RE Sources’ booth alone, we received over 720 signatures before 6:30pm!  

Bill took the stage at 7pm and spoke to one of the largest crowds the Village Green has seen about the importance of preventing the construction of the Gateway Pacific Terminal. His message: prevent the exportation of coal not only to protect the health, happiness, economy, and environment of Whatcom County, but also to set an example and stop global climate change. He told stories of his travels around the world visiting communities who already feel the tragic affects of climate change, such as increased incidents of flooding, crippling food prices, and disease. He inspired the crowd by declaring that sometimes flukes of geography such as Whatcom County’s location and deepwater port, happen for a reason. Bellingham will win this fight, he said, and set a global example in the broader struggle to stop global climate change.

"Of Bellingham in particular, the New Englander says, 'There’s virtually no place on the continent that’s done a better job of showing us how to live locally. Now, by quirk of geography, Bellingham is going to have to make some decisions about what kind of role it wants to play globally.” Quote from the Cascadia Weekly’s article on May 25, 2011.

RE Sources would like to thank everyone for attending the event, signing the petition, and continuing to take action.("Coal-for-China debate burns its way into Bellingham's mayor race,", 6/2/11.) And a special thanks to all the organizations that tabled at the event, especially Climate Solutions for their support before and after the event.

In addition, we would like to thank our generous event sponsors and supporters:
Whatcom Sound, Shew Design for marketing and promotional support, Duane Jager for his excellent emcee skills, Millie and The Mentshn for their great performance (even while it was raining), Charlie Maliszewski & Hilary Culverwell for their fun performance of “Paradise” – Whatcom County style (see below for video), Village Books, Climate Solutions,, Adventures NW Magazine, Jill McInytre Witt, Paul Anderson & Bray Hayden (for their excellent photography (view a slideshow here), The RE Store, and the Cascadia Weekly.

Links for More Information
 Take Action!
"Can China Go Green?" National Geographic Article by Bill McKibben
"Stopping Coal at the Coast" LA Times Article by Bill McKibben 
Click here to view a slide show of the event. (Photo credit: The RE Store's very own Bray Hayden.)