“Friends and Neighbors”?

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Mon, Apr 21, 2014, 12:59 pm  //  Terry Wechsler

Chevron/Petrogas LPG Facility, Ferndale

In their November 29, 2012, comment on the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT), the Northern Whatcom County Small City Caucus (mayors of Blaine, Everson, Ferndale, Lynden, Nooksack, and Sumas) explained why they support GPT:

“The existing Cherry Point industries have been increasingly good neighbors and corporate citizens over time, but their future viability cannot be assumed or taken for granted. The permitting agencies should recognize the importance  of new and diversified job growth within the Cherry Point heavy industrial area as essential to a healthy and sustainable regional economy.”

My first article for NWC noted there has never been an environmental assessment to determine how “appropriate” industrial activity at Cherry Point actually is. As we await the EIS for GPT, it is time to assess our Whatcom County industrial “good neighbors and corporate citizens” with a more critical eye, and consider how they operate and have in the past, since that informs how we can expect them and their corporate brethren in Whatcom County to behave in the future.

This information is incomplete. Data about toxic sites awaiting cleanup is derived from the Washington Dep’t of Ecology’s Hazardous Sites List. Ecology ranks sites 1 to 5, with those with a 1 ranking being the worst sites. For perspective, the GP waterfront site has a rank of 2.

Alcoa Intalco Works:

  • Largest stationary source of carbon monoxide in the area, emitting as much CO as all cars in the county, according to the NW Clean Air Agency. Also significant emitter of SO2, NO2, PM10, and PM2.5. (Note: technology could reduce.)
  • Largest single electricity consumer in the Northwest. 
  • Leading regional source of workplace asbestos exposure according to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.


  • Two toxic sites in the county (Rank 4 in Acme; rank 5 in Bellingham) awaiting cleanup. 
  • As of February 2014, 17 total hazardous sites state-wide, of which 3 are ranked 1 (in Auburn, Shelton, and Kelso).
  • Rail industry as a whole refuses to voluntarily monitor worker health and medications taken to routinely assess operator impairment.

BP Cherry Point:

  • 1995-2005, BP US led nation in refinery deaths, with 10 times Exxon’s.
  • 2010:  BP Cherry Point cited for 13 “serious safety violations,” fined $69,200. No appeal.
  • 2012:  Refinery fire; six violations cited by WA Dep’t Labor & Industries (L&I), including one willful violation of workplace safety and health rules, $81,500 fine. BP is appealing.
  • Whatcom County PDS No. SEP2012-00059; mitigated determination of nonsignificance (MDNS) dated October 18, 2012, and permit granted for a rail logistics project to receive up to one train per day of crude from the North Dakota Bakken shale beds. Request for reconsideration based on new information of extreme hazards associated with crude by rail denied. Currently does not report how many trains it actually receives.

Chevron LPG, Ferndale:

  • Petrogas Energy Corp. of Calgary announced acquisition of the facility, which stores and distributes bulk shipments of propane, butane and iso-butane (collectively "LPG"), on March 4, 2014. The facility almost exclusively exports to foreign markets, according to industry analyst RBN Energy.
  • Petrogas has not announced if it plans to expand storage capacity (currently 750 MBbl) or rail infrastructure (2 rail sidings), and officials decline to be interviewed.  The facility previously averaged 4-5000 bpd (2-3 vessels/annum), but  the announcement noted the facility’s 30,000 bpd capacity.
  • Transport is dangerous. The most recent FRA advisory about rail transport was issued in 2012; tankers require 500-foot “security zones,” or buffers between them and other vessels. The facility shares Alcoa’s pier.
  • Derailments can result in explosions and fires, posing particular problems when LPG cars are combined with crude for rail shipment as occurs now. 

Phillips 66 (ConocoPhillips) Ferndale Refinery:

  • Persists in using hydrofluoric acid, an acute poison, to boost octane rates in spite of the extreme danger associated with a spill and availability of safer alternative chemicals. Refuses to disclose how this hazardous material is transported to the refinery (vessel, rail, or truck), in spite of the fact that “it’s some of the worst stuff in the spill-response world,” according to Mark MacIntyre, spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Seattle.
  • 2005-11, fined over $200,000 for emission violations by Northwest Clean Air Administration.
  • Fined $6,300 by L&I for 2010 fire caused by improper maintenance.
  • Whatcom County PDS No. SEP2013-00005; MDNS dated April 29, 2013, and permit granted for a rail logistics project to receive up to one train every other day of crude from the North Dakota Bakken shale beds.  Request for reconsideration based on new information of extreme hazards associated with crude by rail denied. Rail infrastructure not yet complete; has not agreed to report how many trains will be received once in operation.

TreOil Industries Limited:

  • Ranked equivalent to GP waterfront on WA Dep’t of Ecology’s list of hazardous sites in Whatcom County awaiting cleanup.
  • Contaminants are leaching into groundwater and later discharged into Puget Sound according to WA Dep’t of Natural Resources’ Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve Plan

Other:  Ecology lists 27 hazardous sites awaiting cleanup in Whatcom County:

  • Rank 1:  Chris V8 in Custer;
  • Rank 2: 5 sites including GP Bellingham waterfront;
  • Rank 3:  9 sites;
  • Rank 4: 3 sites; and
  • Rank 5: 9 sites.

The Small City Mayors’ assertion that growth and diversification within the Cherry Point industrial area are essential to a healthy and sustainable economy is conclusory and requires adequate study of risks posed. Some of those risks were described by the Seattle Times in its front page Easter 2014 article addressing state-wide implications of combined rail and vessel impacts of the now over 20 fossil fuel transportation proposals in the region.

At the county level, it is time to address the cumulative impacts of industrial activity at Cherry Point and elsewhere, and we have 27 reasons to demand such an analysis before any permitting decisions are made that would add to or increase industrial activity. With rumors swirling of possible fracking operations in the Bellingham Basin, it is time to stop doing the easy thing – talking about jobs – and address how we sustainably move into a future that leaves our kids not merely with jobs to go to, but water to drink, fish to eat….

Intalco Smelting Facility, Cherry Point

Georgia Pacific, Bellingham Waterfront

Wendy Harris  //  Mon, Apr 21, 2014, 11:02 pm

Excellent work, Terry.  Do you know when Cherry Point was zoned heavy industrial, because ever since I have been here everyone has treated this an immutable fact.  I am wondering if it was subject to SEPA legally, or at least included in the county’s last EIS for its GMA comp. plan requirements.  And do we have any evidence or information linking the Cherry Point industries to human health problems?  We have very high rates of cancer, and autoimmune disease, and I know from reviewing EPA websites about a year ago, our air quality is not that great, I believe primarily from these industries.

At this point, I am beginning to wonder if there are any safe places left to live in the County or COB, and if not, whether any place else is any better at this point.

Terry Wechsler  //  Tue, Apr 22, 2014, 11:54 am

At some point we should dig down in to the entire regulatory timeline. My general understanding is that the first refinery was permitted in the 50s, but it wasn’t zoned HII until some time after that (in the 70s?) because of its unique characteristics which made it an ideal site for creation of high wage jobs. I got the vague sense that was happening as the Coastal Zone Management Act, Shoreline Management Act, and NEPA and SEPA were coming down the pipeline, but I don’t know with certainty. I was lazy and re-read the CP Aquatic Reserve Management Plan assuming it would reference any EIS, which it did not, though it does seem to comprehensively survey existing studies. I spoke to the director of the Aquatic Reserve Division at DNR to confirm the state had not conducted an EIS for the ARMP. I can also re-read the GPT 1997 FEIS to see if it references any other studies (which it should have if any existed). It’s been a while since I’ve been in that doc, but I have no recollection of any reference, and that should have jumped out if it was there.

I plan to drill down into this issue because the assumptions in the Comp Plan for the Cherry Point UGA may be without any foundation. Protect Whatcom submitted a comment for the EIS for the Comp Plan revisions, specifically challenging the employment projections, arguing that there is no basis to haggle over which higher projection is more appropriate, absent a study of impacts of industrial activity there now, much less those impacts associated with the expanded industrial activity necessary to support the 600-800+ projected additional jobs. Of course, that entire section of the proposed comp plan revisions is a mess, based on assumptions about PIT’s plans that are now outdated. The high employment projections, e.g., assume that there would be industrial development on PIT’s land beyond the footprint of the terminal when the reality is PIT’s permit application describes using the remaining land in its natural state as a wind buffer. The trees are an integral part of their “state-of-the-art” dust suppression system.

In short, if there is any real planning occurring around industrial activity in this county, particularly at CP, I sure can’t find it.

“Friends and Neighbors”?

Mon, Apr 21, 2014, 12:59 pm  //  Terry Wechsler

A closer look at Whatcom County's industrial "stewards of the environment."

2 comments; last on Apr 22, 2014

Water, Water Everywhere, but ...

Sat, Apr 19, 2014, 1:57 pm  //  Terry Wechsler

or How Not to Plan for Future Generations' Water Needs

10 comments; last on Apr 21, 2014

Paper Dreams in Fairhaven

Next door to Village Books

Charter Review and District Only Voting

Thu, Apr 17, 2014, 9:40 am  //  Riley Sweeney

A simple explanation of the Charter Review and analysis of District only voting


County Considers Purchasing Toxic Property

Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 9:32 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley digs into the county's plan to buy the county morgue

3 comments; last on Mar 24, 2014

Fukushima Radiation Found In Canada

Fri, Mar 14, 2014, 9:47 am  //  John Servais

Fukushima radiation has been found 20 miles from Whatcom County farmland along the Fraser River in British Columbia.

1 comments; last on Mar 17, 2014

County Hires GPT Permit Lead as Senior Planner

Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 9:51 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley digs into an unusual hiring decision at the County Planning Dept

1 comments; last on Mar 10, 2014

Relevant Documents to Libel Threat

Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 8:29 pm  //  John Servais

The full text of Craig Cole's threatening letter of libel against the Whatcom Watch. And the emptiness of the threat.

16 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014

Craig Cole Threatens Libel Suit

Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 4:48 pm  //  John Servais

Craig Cole, the local contact for the proposed Cherry Point coal port has threatened the Whatcom Watch with a libel lawsuit.

6 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014

Do Changing Liquor and Marijuana Laws Affect DUIs

Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 7:26 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley digs through court data and discovers the real impact of privatization and legalization


Lecture on County Water Issues Draws Crowd

Fri, Dec 06, 2013, 11:03 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The county will be required to consider water quality and water quantity when planning rural growth.

3 comments; last on Dec 10, 2013

County Releases EIS, Prepares to Purchase Jail Site

Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 10:59 am  //  Riley Sweeney

The county takes two big steps forward on the new jail, while still missing the point


Election Results - November 2013

Tue, Nov 05, 2013, 8:21 pm  //  John Servais

With lots of outside county money flowing in to our local races, this election is weird. But real - and we county residents have spoken.

11 comments; last on Nov 09, 2013

How the Coal Industry Funneled $40,000 into Whatcom

Wed, Oct 02, 2013, 5:40 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley uncovers how the Coal Industry is funding conservative candidates in Whatcom County

11 comments; last on Oct 03, 2013

Over $330,000 raised and spent on elections in Whatcom County

Thu, Sep 19, 2013, 6:08 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley examines who is donating to which candidates


Can We Talk? Doug Ericksen for Congress!

Mon, Aug 19, 2013, 7:08 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley whole-heartedly urges Doug Ericksen to run for Congress in 2014

2 comments; last on Aug 19, 2013

Water Agreement Fails Scrutiny

Tue, Aug 13, 2013, 11:31 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The City of Bellingham memorandum of agreement with Lynden does not make sense. What is going on?

4 comments; last on Sep 10, 2013

Celebrations More Racist than Verdict

Sun, Jul 14, 2013, 10:25 am  //  John Servais

The explosion of hate and racist rhetoric is the saddest aspect of the verdict. The evidence was complicated and the verdict difficult to make.

2 comments; last on Jul 16, 2013

Zero Public Process for New Jail

Fri, Jul 12, 2013, 8:29 am  //  John Servais

Riley Sweeney has a short but important expose over at the Political Junkie today.

1 comments; last on Jul 12, 2013

Caught In The Whatcom Court System

Fri, May 31, 2013, 4:43 pm  //  John Servais

Luba Pekisheva has been given a confusing run around in our Whatcom County courts for over three years. Judges, prosecutors and clerks have all participated.


Safeguard the Southfork

Thu, May 30, 2013, 11:01 pm  //  Guest writer

Jeffrey Margolis urges us to request the Nooksack South Fork Valley be included in the Coal Port environmental study.

3 comments; last on Jun 02, 2013

Our Water - War or Pieces?

Fri, May 24, 2013, 12:18 am  //  Guest writer

Marian Beddill provides a general guide for the public, with a look at the history of water rights in Washington state.

4 comments; last on May 26, 2013

Demonically Possessed Slaughter Crazed Ideologues Wrecking Rural Whatcom

Wed, May 22, 2013, 10:12 am  //  Guest writer

By Guest Writer Nicole Brown. This is a call to action for county citizens as the county tries to ram through the slaughterhouse rezones.

7 comments; last on May 26, 2013

Who is filing for elective offices???

Fri, May 17, 2013, 4:44 pm  //  John Servais

Tuesday morning and nothing in today's Bellingham Herald. Nor online. We provide the basics to fill in this latest omission by our "daily" newspaper.

9 comments; last on May 23, 2013

Freedom Academy Comes to Whatcom County

Mon, Apr 22, 2013, 5:52 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley attends Tea Party training and runs afoul of Rep. Overstreet

1 comments; last on Apr 22, 2013

Closing Arguments in Defense of the Reconveyance

Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 6:37 am  //  Guest writer

Guest writer Shane Roth writes in favor of the reconveyance of Lake Whatcom land back to the county.

1 comments; last on Mar 11, 2013

PeaceHealth Merger Threatens Women’s Health in Whatcom County

Tue, Feb 26, 2013, 6:39 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley details upcoming merger between PeaceHealth and a much more conservative entity

1 comments; last on Feb 26, 2013

The County Planning Commission is Broke

Wed, Jan 30, 2013, 12:09 am  //  Wendy Harris

The planning commission no longer serves its purpose due to Council's poor appointment choices

2 comments; last on Feb 10, 2013

Aquatic Invasive Species Plan for Lake Whatcom

Mon, Jan 28, 2013, 1:52 am  //  Wendy Harris

Improving ecosystem functions holistically is the best form of protection for the Lake Whatcom.

1 comments; last on Jan 28, 2013

EIS Scoping Period for GPT is Closed

Tue, Jan 22, 2013, 6:19 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Links to a few noteworthy GPT scoping comments .

1 comments; last on Jan 22, 2013

Is Noncompliance Addicting?

Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 1:35 pm  //  Wendy Harris

A proposed amendment to the Lake Whatcom watershed moratorium will increase water quality degradation

1 comments; last on Jan 12, 2013

Noncompliance 2013: The Game

Sun, Jan 06, 2013, 11:49 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Watch the Whatcom County Council wiggle its way out of the latest round of GMA compliance requirements for Lake Whatcom

1 comments; last on Jul 27, 2013

Whatcom County STILL Not Compliant With GMA

Fri, Jan 04, 2013, 11:37 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Council majority willing to spend, and spend, and spend public funds defending development rights

2 comments; last on Jan 05, 2013

Video of Mudslide Derailing Train Monday

Wed, Dec 19, 2012, 11:12 am  //  John Servais

A dramatic video of yet another mudslide near Everett - and what will be coming down on coal trains. Amtrak service to Bellingham is shut down.

4 comments; last on Dec 20, 2012

Coal Ship Wrecks Vancouver Terminal

Sat, Dec 08, 2012, 1:43 pm  //  John Servais

A giant coal freighter went right through the long dock early Friday morning. Nothing in print edition of Herald

3 comments; last on Dec 11, 2012

Slaughterhouses and Rendering Plants - Videographers Needed

Mon, Dec 03, 2012, 3:26 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein citizens must hold their representatives' feet to the fire

6 comments; last on Dec 09, 2012

The Public Locked out of Jail Selection Process

Sat, Nov 10, 2012, 9:53 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley examines why the new jail site was selected without public input

1 comments; last on Nov 12, 2012

Meat Axe or Scalpel?

Sat, Nov 03, 2012, 1:21 pm  //  Tip Johnson

An letter to the County Council on opening the county to the slaughter industry

8 comments; last on Nov 08, 2012

Election Predictions

Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 7:29 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Here's your shot at fame and glory as a political pundit

4 comments; last on Nov 02, 2012

Rep. Vincent Buys’ Record

Tue, Oct 02, 2012, 8:22 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley examines Rep. Vincent Buys' legislative record

1 comments; last on Dec 02, 2012

Lummi Nation Opposes Coal Terminal

Fri, Sep 21, 2012, 8:53 am  //  John Servais

Bellingham Business Journal breaking story - Lummi's to hold meeting today at noon to speak against the Cherry Point project.

7 comments; last on Nov 04, 2012

Local Conservative Blog Fails at Flowcharts

Wed, Sep 05, 2012, 11:00 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley patiently explains to the Whatcom Excavator what a flowchart should look like


Our Right to Decide?

Mon, Aug 20, 2012, 6:24 pm  //  Guest writer

David Maas, a retired college prof, asks why the city of Bellingham is supposedly powerless to stop the development of a private project that will reshape our community?

5 comments; last on Aug 26, 2012

The Political Junkie interviews “Power Past Coal”

Mon, Aug 20, 2012, 8:00 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley sits down with Matt Petryni with Power Past Coal to get the latest scoop


Coal Free Bellingham: Point Proven?

Thu, Aug 09, 2012, 8:30 pm  //  Larry Horowitz

Questions raised by the Superior Court's barring of the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights initiative from being placed on the ballot.

21 comments; last on Aug 17, 2012

The Political Junkie covers the Tea Party forum

Fri, Jul 20, 2012, 4:44 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley gathers quotes, video footage and pictures from the recent tea party forum

1 comments; last on Jul 20, 2012

Oh no!  Whatcom population sees slow growth

Tue, Jul 10, 2012, 8:45 am  //  Larry Horowitz

Wanted: Someone to interpret chamber president Oplinger's remarks

13 comments; last on Jul 13, 2012

From the Political Junkie: Judges, Jails, and Local Politics

Wed, Jul 04, 2012, 10:42 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley interviews judicial candidates, reviews campaign tactics, and discusses fireworks


Port attempts to kill initiative for two new seats

Sun, Jun 17, 2012, 8:52 am  //  Paul deArmond

Port Commissioner Scott Walker and attorney Frank Chmelik get caught ballot-rigging again

20 comments; last on Jun 21, 2012

Last chance, file for PCO

Fri, May 18, 2012, 10:27 am  //  Riley Sweeney

A short plea for public involvement from Riley


5 Port Commissioners Initiative Now Circulating

Sat, Apr 28, 2012, 9:09 am  //  John Servais

A county wide initiative will allow voters to decide whether to expand the Port of Bellingham commission from 3 to 5 commissioners.

1 comments; last on Apr 28, 2012

Ron Paul Delegates Railroaded at Whatcom GOP Convention

Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 11:07 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley attended the Whatcom GOP Convention and reports back

1 comments; last on Apr 29, 2012

The Road to Nowhere Can Go Forward

Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 12:02 am  //  Guest writer

Developers are gaming the system with help from the county government - and big changes are made in multiple small changes.

1 comments; last on Apr 27, 2012

Two Port Commissioners Held Illegal Meeting

Tue, Apr 10, 2012, 7:52 pm  //  John Servais

An illegal serial Port Commission meeting should be investigated by the State Auditor, and two commissioners should be made accountable for their actions.

5 comments; last on Apr 11, 2012

Growth, Sprawl & Infill:  Padden Trails Project

Fri, Apr 06, 2012, 7:16 am  //  Guest writer

Ken Mann writes a guest article of his personal support for the Padden Trails development inside the Bellingham city limits.

3 comments; last on Apr 07, 2012

We Can Expand Port Commission to Five

Wed, Apr 04, 2012, 2:16 pm  //  John Servais

State law allows us to pass an initiative and increase the number of port commissioners from three to five. Thanks to Harriet Spanel.

4 comments; last on Apr 05, 2012

Questions about Population Growth

Mon, Apr 02, 2012, 11:43 am  //  Larry Horowitz

Where to begin? Misinformation. Disinformation. Truths. Myths. Same old, same old. Paradigm shift. GMA. OFM. Growth pressures. Population loss. Growth subsidies. Proportionate share.

36 comments; last on Apr 11, 2012

The Curious Disappearance of Bob Ferris

Fri, Mar 09, 2012, 11:15 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley gets to the bottom of this in a NWCitizen Exclusive

4 comments; last on Apr 01, 2012

Squalicum Mountain development gets favors from county

Sat, Feb 18, 2012, 3:03 pm  //  Guest writer

No EIS - no real county planning concern about developing Squalicum Mountain and degrading Lake Whatcom water even further.


Port attempts to kill initiative for two new seats

Tue, Jan 31, 2012, 8:36 am  //  Paul deArmond

Port Commissioner Scott Walker and attorney Frank Chmelik get caught ballot-rigging again


UPDATE: City of Bham Moonlighting Issue - More Documents

Mon, Jan 30, 2012, 11:58 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley updates us on the latest facts coming to light about City of Bellingham employee moonlighting

2 comments; last on Feb 01, 2012


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