“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).

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

Action Alert for Tonight: Waterfront Wildlife and Habitat Threatened

Mon, Apr 21, 2014, 10:43 am  //  Wendy Harris

The public needs to support city council and request that a waterfront habitat assessment include terrestrial species and habitat connectivity.


Village Books

In historic Fairhaven. Take Exit 250 from I-5.

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

Killer Industrial Jobs or Long-term Job Killers?

Sun, Apr 06, 2014, 11:52 am  //  Terry Wechsler

Why commenting on the EIS in Comp Plan revisions for Cherry Point means demanding an EIS in the first place.

4 comments; last on Apr 13, 2014

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

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

Treaty Rights and Public Rights Ignored In Overwater Walkway

Tue, Oct 08, 2013, 2:22 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The city staff considers the overwater walkway a done deal before official approval or resolution of treaty right conflicts

4 comments; last on Oct 16, 2013

Greenways Levy Money Used for AstroTurf

Sun, Jun 30, 2013, 10:28 am  //  John Servais

Bellingham City Council ready to approve $500,000 of trails money for resurfacing plastic grass on Civic Field.

15 comments; last on Jul 02, 2013

Sen. Doug Ericksen Co-opts rather than Cooperate

Fri, Jun 28, 2013, 6:29 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley Sweeney examines Sen. Ericksen's legislative methods


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

Coal Trains and Unhealthy Air - Any Connection?

Sun, May 05, 2013, 2:45 pm  //  John Servais

Help fund a scientific study looking for links between diesel locomotives, coal trains and unhealthy air.


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

City Controls Chuckanut Park - Not New Park District

Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 2:47 pm  //  John Servais

The election created a new park district with taxing power - but with NO control over Chuckanut Ridge - the 100 acre woods.

1 comments; last on Feb 23, 2013

Waterfront EIS Revised Without Public Process

Tue, Feb 19, 2013, 9:40 pm  //  Wendy Harris

An "Updated Preferred Alternative" reduces the number of waterfront jobs and expands the boundary of the waterfront district.


Thoughts on the Park District Vote

Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 3:42 pm  //  John Servais

The Park District vote is close and we will not know final results until late ballots are counted.

6 comments; last on Feb 19, 2013

Time to Vote on Park District

Sat, Feb 09, 2013, 12:14 am  //  John Servais

The proponents have avoided the issues on the Park District as the close of voting nears this weekend.

2 comments; last on Feb 12, 2013

Former Park Directors Against Park District Proposal

Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 12:36 pm  //  Guest writer

Paul Leuthold and Byron Elmendorf explain why to vote NO on the Chuckanut Park District ballot measure.

19 comments; last on Feb 12, 2013

Wise Owl Knows What to Do

Tue, Jan 29, 2013, 5:25 pm  //  Guest writer

Bill Geyer explains Transfer Development Rights and how they can be applied to the Chuckanut Ridge.

17 comments; last on Feb 05, 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

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

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


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


The REAL Problem With Costco

Thu, Aug 16, 2012, 11:50 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The Mayor's Negotiations With Costco Undercuts City Permit Procedures And Public Process

4 comments; last on Aug 17, 2012

Is NOAA Reporting False Higher Temperatures?

Sun, Jul 29, 2012, 11:17 am  //  John Servais

New report suggests U.S. weather stations reporting higher temperatures because NOAA has poorly managed sensors and caused false higher readings.

11 comments; last on Aug 06, 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

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

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.


Planning Commission Fails to Remove Cherry Point From Birch Bay Mitigation Plan

Wed, Dec 14, 2011, 8:05 am  //  Wendy Harris

Claiming it is unfair to treat large property owners different than small property owners, the Commission refuses to remove industrial areas from buffer mitigation proposal.


Loophole Benefits SSA and Undermines Birch Bay Mitigation Proposal

Wed, Dec 07, 2011, 8:00 am  //  Wendy Harris

Tell the Planning Commission to eliminate this loophole

2 comments; last on Dec 14, 2011

The Cole Train: Loads of BS

Sun, Dec 04, 2011, 5:53 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein the sooty prospect of economic necessity rears its ugly head

2 comments; last on Dec 05, 2011

Bad Idea, Wrong Place, and Wrong Time

Mon, Oct 31, 2011, 3:07 pm  //  Guest writer

Bob Ferris of Re-Sources takes a values based perspective on our community and a possible coal port.

9 comments; last on Nov 02, 2011

SSA already started construction at Cherry Point

Fri, Jul 29, 2011, 10:11 am  //  John Servais

The Gateway Pacific coal port appears to be under construction now - secretly and w/o permits.

36 comments; last on Aug 05, 2011

Chuckanut Ridge now fully owned by bank

Fri, Jul 22, 2011, 3:52 pm  //  John Servais

Washington Federal has bought out Greenbriar's interest in Chuckanut Ridge.

3 comments; last on Jul 25, 2011

The Political Junkie Interviews Christina Maginnis

Mon, Jul 18, 2011, 9:03 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

The Political Junkie interviews Christina Maginnis

4 comments; last on Jul 22, 2011

Problems with SEPA review of Cornwall Landfill

Thu, Jun 23, 2011, 7:30 am  //  Wendy Harris

Time is running out for public comment on the Port's proposal to use toxic waste as a cap at waterfront re-development site.

5 comments; last on Jul 02, 2011

On the Take - Coal Port advocates

Wed, Jun 08, 2011, 1:09 pm  //  John Servais

Who all is on the take? Who all has not been up front about being on the take for the Coal Port?

4 comments; last on Jun 12, 2011

Running blog on Coal Port

Fri, Jun 03, 2011, 11:56 am  //  John Servais

A running update of links and info on the Coal Port and Trains of proposed Gateway Pacific at Cherry Point.

15 comments; last on Jun 29, 2011

Dave Warren plays the martyr

Thu, Jun 02, 2011, 6:45 pm  //  John Servais

The public meeting to hear opinions about the coal port last night saw local union leader Dave Warren playing games.

3 comments; last on Jun 05, 2011

Flash mob for coal meeting

Wed, Jun 01, 2011, 4:32 pm  //  Guest writer

Guest writer Mark Flanders' call to action for June 1 flash mob at coal port meeting

7 comments; last on Jun 09, 2011

From the Political Junkie: Patti Brooks is a Socialist

Wed, May 18, 2011, 9:31 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Patti Brooks' war on gophers shows how she is a socialist

3 comments; last on May 28, 2011

State Board invalidates County planning

Thu, Dec 23, 2010, 5:19 pm  //  John Servais

Crawford, Kremen & Co. have been stopped by Growth Management Board.

4 comments; last on Dec 27, 2010

Is Boulevard Park/Cornwall Landfill Overwater Walkway A Toxic Trail?

Wed, Dec 15, 2010, 9:07 pm  //  Guest writer

Wendy Harris writes about a multi million dollar planned city of Bellingham project.

9 comments; last on Dec 18, 2010

No “future” for conservation?

Sat, Nov 20, 2010, 3:13 pm  //  Guest writer

Dave Stalheim warns us the Council is poised to rob the Conservation Futures Fund.

2 comments; last on Nov 25, 2010

Eric Hirst Resigns Greenways Committee

Tue, Nov 09, 2010, 5:04 pm  //  Guest writer

Eric explains his resignation from the Greenways Advisory Committee and lists his concerns.

1 comments; last on Nov 10, 2010

Open letter to Bellingham Planning Director Jeff Thomas re: Fairhaven Highlands application deadline

Sun, Oct 31, 2010, 6:20 pm  //  Larry Horowitz

Updated Sun, Oct 31. An open letter to Bellingham Planning Director Jeff Thomas re: Fairhaven Highlands application deadline

12 comments; last on Oct 28, 2010

Thriving Beyond Sustainability - a book review

Tue, Sep 07, 2010, 9:59 am  //  Guest writer

Eric Hirst reviews a new book by Andres R. Edwards, Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathworks to a Resillient Society


The Political Downzone of Responsible Land Use Planning

Mon, Aug 16, 2010, 1:55 pm  //  John Lesow

John Lesow rebuts Jack Petree's Herald oped article that strongly criticized county planning.

30 comments; last on Aug 25, 2010

Deceptive Herald article on planning

Fri, Aug 13, 2010, 9:39 am  //  John Servais

Am looking for a writer to rebut Jack Petree's BIAW propaganda article the Herald saw fit to print.

3 comments; last on Aug 20, 2010

City bumbles on Chuckanut Ridge extension

Wed, Aug 04, 2010, 9:12 am  //  John Servais

Bellingham Planning Department is giving quiet extensions to the Chuckanut Ridge developer - propping up the property value.

1 comments; last on Aug 04, 2010

Book Review:  Whole Earth Discipline

Fri, Jul 16, 2010, 5:44 am  //  Guest writer

Eric Hirst reviews this October 2009 book by Stewart Brand of Whole Earth Catalog fame. Stewart is critical of several mainstream environmental stances.

1 comments; last on Jul 19, 2010

Climate and transparent process

Wed, Jul 14, 2010, 12:52 pm  //  John Servais

The Atlantic Monthly has an article on Climate gate that every Enviro true believer should read. Some healthy skepticism is very needed.

1 comments; last on Jul 17, 2010


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