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: