Bellingham Bay - trying to get info on pollution
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(Oct 6, 2002) I heard from a very reliable - inside DOE - source that secret meetings are being help with Georia Pacific and others to decide what to do with toxic pollution in Bellingham Bay. The DOE Bellingham Bay Demonstration Pilot group has occasional meetings in public to make us think the process is public. But the real negotiating is behind closed doors - the old smoky back room - where dirty deals are cut.
OK, we will play this little scenario right out on the Internet as it unfolds. See for yourself what is involved in trying to learn what our government agencies are doing.
1. Beginning - I sent the following email to the Department of Ecology public disclosure person.
Monday, Sep 30, 2002
Per our phone conversation this morning, here is my question in writing.
Has the DOE been meeting with representatives from the city of Bellingham and Georgia Pacific in non-public meetings regarding Bellingham Bay?
These meetings would have taken place during August and/or September. They may have been technically open to the public, but without notification to the public.
Perhaps a better way to insure I get the answer is to ask for a list of dates, times and places of any and all meetings during August and September between DOE personell with city of Bellingham and Georgia Pacific representatives regarding action on Bellingham Bay - whether under the Pilot project or not - that dealt with any dredging or dumping (filling) of the Bay or shorelines or related areas.
If this information is not public, please so inform me.
If this needs to be in the form of a public disclosure request, then consider this as such. If such a list does not exist, then please advise me how I would go about reuesting the information above.
2. Reply from Dept of Ecology - blowing off my request. Note no offer to help give info. Rather a statement they do not have to tell me anything and challenging me to guess what document to request.
3. My second email - citing RCW 42.17.260 which requires they publish an index (and which above letter did not mention).
Oct 6, 2002
Sent to: Dianne DeFries of DOE, 4 other DOE officers, Dave Quall, Jeff Morris, Doug Erickson, several news agencies and Susan Harris the assistant director of the Public Disclosure Commission.
I have received your letter of Oct 3 telling me that Ecology does not have to tell me about meetings it is having with Georgia Pacific and that unless I can cite a document by the correct name you do not have to help me find it. You cite several RCWs and such. Your letter blows off my request in no uncertain terms.
Well, you failed to cite RCW 42.17.260 - Documents and indexes to be made public. Please produce the index of all documents related to any meetings with Georgia Pacific and the city of Bellingham related to the toxic pollution of Bellingham Bay and possible cleanup, dredging and filling plans. In particular, I asked about secret meetings in August and September. I repeat that request here. I see no need to cite the many applicable sub paragraphs of RCW 42.17.260. I expect to know of email invites, schedules, reports and all else.
Treat this email as a formal public disclosure request.
The public disclosure and open meetings laws were enacted to help citizens learn what our government agencies are doing. Not to allow the agencies to hide behind clauses that can be interpreted in different ways. I don't need you citing case law to my request. Such a stonewalling does not serve the public good.
I am copying others on this email - and hope they can bring pressure to bear on the Dept of Ecology to be more forthcming with information. This is a what we citizens expect from our elected representatives.
For all your benefit, your reply, my emails, and all further correspondence is being posted at www.nwcitzen.us for all to follow. We'll let other citizens follow this one.
Basically my concern is DOE is engaged in secret meetings to decide what is to be done on Bellingham's very toxic waterfront and the public will learn at a charade of a public meetin when the agreement is announced. That is not public process.
I await your reply within 5 days with information on the index as required by state law. Lacking the index, I will accept your assistance in the form of naming the documents I need.
To all of you - whatever happened to open government?
I invite you representatives to read the blow off letter at www.nwcitizen.us
Thank you one and all.
4. Next ??
Do we have open government or secret government? We citizens should be able to attend any meeting that is attended by any non government organization - ie, Georgia Pacific. We are not. When we did learn of secret meetings and went to the door, we were shut out - or they adjourned the meetings.
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