Craig Cole, erstwhile local leader and one-time local politician, is now stumping for a coal port, after his chain of grocery stores failed. Hey, everyone needs a job! Yet, his background in public policy might have steered him in a very different direction. Everyone knows that government must have adequate revenues to provide services.
An analysis promoting the direct use of coal admits this doesn't always work. "Local jurisdictions were usually unable to raise sufficient tax revenue to provide adequate public services because taxes on coal might have handicapped the ability of local operations to compete. Roads, schools, water and sewage facilities, recreation, health care, and local public administration suffered from this unwillingness or inability to tax adequately…"
Strange, but true!
Ken Oplinger, head of our Chamber of Commerce and a principal coal car in the Cole Train, has an advertising campaign that asserts we need jobs and should all support the proposed terminal. How did coal work out for Appalachia, Ken? The same study states, "The Appalachian coalfields have produced more than 90 percent of all coal ever mined in the United States." But it morosely admits, "Chronic community underdevelopment exists throughout this region…" Yes, Appalachia is notoriously one of the poorest regions in America. Is that what our Chamber should be boosting?
The ubiquitous caboose in this venture is has-been Dave Warren of local Central Labor fame. He thinks the proposed terminal is great, too, despite (the same study) admitting that "The history of coal’s labor-management relations is a chronicle of turmoiI caused by uncertain markets, hostile attitudes, and inequities." It observes that labor's efforts have been largely ineffective because the industry has managed planned stockpiles sufficient to outlast strikes and wear down labor demands. Wow, Dave! And you're from Central Labor? But maybe he is being true to his roots. After all, the risks to the general public far exceed those to coal industry workers. (Same study) "About two-thirds of all coal is shipped by railroad. More fatalities result from coal transport than from mining." And that could be our waterfront! Have a nice shoreline walk. Welcome to Bellingham. Just be careful and wear a dust mask.
And there are far less favorable studies available. This one asserts that "…the life cycle effects of coal and the waste stream generated are costing the U.S. public a third to over one-half of a trillion dollars annually."
This study finds that the true costs of coal utilization should be adding as much as 26.89 cents per kilowatt hour, costs currently borne by the public through subsidies and impacts. That makes solar and wind look cheap. And that's before accounting for "…impacts of toxic chemicals and heavy metals on ecological systems…ill-health endpoints (morbidity)…direct risks and hazards posed by sludge, slurry…eutrophication of fresh and coastal sea water…acid rain and acid mine drainage…long-term impacts on the physical and mental health of those living in coal-field regions…health impacts and climate forcing…and the full assessment of impacts due to an increasingly unstable climate."
But why should Cole, Oplinger, and Warren care about general health and ecological or macroeconomic problems when their microeconomic possibilities are increasing? You can wreck anything if you can make a buck, right? That's Free Enterprise, or at least enterprise free of compunction.