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.