Saturday, December 29, 2012

Lake Whatcom -- Nevermore

Nothing more to say.
Nothing happens.
Nothing will happen.
Let’s all forget it.
About two weeks ago, I opened a conversation with some folks who have significant responsibility for our drinking water source, Lake Whatcom, by stating an obvious fact.  I said: 
“Lake Whatcom is the graveyard of activists. From Sherilynn Wells to the various Lake Whatcom groups to Dan Pike, everyone learns the same lesson. Worrying about Lake Whatcom is like pounding your head against a tree. The only thing that it accomplishes is to teach you how good it feels when you stop.”
They nodded and smiled.  And why not?  What else can you say?
My clients and I, and Futurewise, have sued Whatcom County to try to implement the parts of Washington state law that require Whatcom County to protect surface water quality.  Wendy Harris, bless her heart, continues to attend meetings on Lake Whatcom, and continues to point out the many threats that our drinking water source faces.  Other individuals – Virginia Watson, Marian Bedill, and April Markiewicz come to mind, and I know that I’m missing others – continue to devote their energy and considerable intellects to the fact that we’re fouling our own nest and that it’s entirely avoidable.  
There was a time when everybody was up in arms about the fact that we’re knowingly, intentionally, systematically, and avoidably, polluting the water that we drink.  
Not any  more.   
The folks who have a vested interest in knowingly, intentionally, systematically, and avoidably polluting the water that we drink have won.  Because there’s nobody with the stature to stand up to them.  Not at the state level, not at the local level. A few scattered citizens can’t take on the burden.  Especially when the folks who are paid to do this work are not willing to hit their heads against the wall, either. 
A two-year anniversary is coming up.  What is an appropriate way to celebrate a great big nothing? 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Agenda 21 Redux

Well, at least the Bellingham Herald’s front page article on the Tea Party didn’t overtly plug “Glenn Beck’s” novel Agenda 21.*

Of course, you will always find the real scoop on the major issues of the day on Get Whatcom Planning.  Did the Herald article warn you that the words “outcome,” local,” and “fair” are harbingers of the Agenda 21 apocalypse?  Heck no. 
To see the entire list of words that proves that One World Government is about to take over your life, follow this link to what one author described as “Glen Beck’s Agenda 21 Word Cloud.”

You’ll never view the term "parking policy” in quite the same way. 

If you haven't had quite enough Agenda 21 fun, try typing "Agenda 21" into Google Images.  Amongst the trojan horses and scary recycling logos, you'll come across my favorite picture, which floats a smirking, photoshopped  "Barack Hussein Obama" in an ocean where he's about to be attacked by an octopus, with the U.N. logo looming on the horizon.  Will the UN arrive in time to save our President from the giant cephalopod?  The author clearly hopes not.
For those who harbor the notion that Canada provides a safe harbor, a final refuge from American loopiness, I would say -- don't follow the link.  It will destroy your illusions.

On the other hand, for a more reality-based view of Agenda 21, here are a couple of blogs that I wrote earlier this year: Agenda 21: A Straw Enemy and Agenda 21: Talking to“Steve.”
*According to a book review, one Harriet Parke actually wrote the book, but Glenn Beck gets the large print on the cover – and the book tour – and the New York Times bestseller author credit (it’s listed at number 20.  A little scary, but is it any less scary than seeing Shades of Grey in the top 10?).

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Coal Terminal News: In Which I Try Out "Greenwashing" By Explaining Why Coal Freighter Accidents Are Good

photo submitted by Rick Swan.
Businessweek reminds us that it's a darn good thing that a coal freighter "crashed into a trestle leading to one of the berths" at the Westshore coal export terminal, just north of here, on December 7th.  An analyst at Barclays in New York pointed out:

“'Obviously accidents are never a positive for those directly involved,' Gagliano said. 'However, strictly from a supply/demand and pricing perspective, issues that constrain supplies have the potential to have a positive impact on underlying prices.'”

So those directly involved -- fish, for example -- will pay the ultimate price, but the coal industry will make more money. 

How can we make sure that the Gateway Pacific Terminal will create a similar economic benefit?  Just build the thing!  According to Westshore spokesman Ray Dykes,

"'We've had over 8,300 ships and never had an incident like this in 42 years. You just couldn't predict it,' he said. 'It's rather ironic, we've just finished the equipment upgrade in five years, $100 million and were just starting to really steam along.'"

Well, maybe they couldn't predict it, but now we can, because it happened in our back yards.  Literally. 

The next time you hear SSA say that there won't be any environmental problems with the Gateway Pacific Terminal because it's going to use the best environmental technology, remind them of irony.  As Ray Dykes might put it, even hundreds of millions of dollars of the best equipment can't stop human error.  You can't predict it.

Of course, it might not be SSA doing the talking about GPT's environmental "benefits."  Lots of good coverage is starting to come out about who's really behind the "Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports," Gateway Pacific's "grassroots" support organization.  No spoilers here -- you have to read for yourself: Sightline and Joel Connelly at the PI.

Oh, all right, I'll give you one clue.  The title of the PI article is "Seattle PR firms are 'doing coal's dirty work':  study."

I'm sure that the good folks in our community who profess to be bitterly opposed to "people from Seattle telling us what to do" will immediately distance themselves from the coal campaign.  Because otherwise, they'd sound hypocritical.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The World We Inherit, The World We Leave Behind

Opened my Bellingham Herald this morning and found an article on our rural element litigation.  The article described the County Council's reasons for its decision to allocate $50,000 for a Seattle law firm to continue to fight for the County's perceived right to plan poorly. 

The Cascadia Weekly also covered this issue.  Although the Herald said that the $50,000 amount was approved "unanimously," the Weekly noted that Carl Weimer was the lone vote against it, presumably during the morning committee meeting.  As the Weekly observed,

"These petitioners agreed to sit down with the county and mediate outstanding issues with (pro bono) legal counsel. Most council members scoffed, declaring mediation was tantamount to surrender.

An exception was Council member Carl Weimer, who voted against the $50,000 appropriation.
'I actually agree with the appellants on many of the issues they are challenging,' Weimer explained, 'particularly many of the water resource issues. I don’t want to waste taxpayer money chasing bad policy.'”

Of course, since the money comes out of our pockets (as the Weekly explains). it's easy for the Council to hang tough.

Life is too short to muck about in the cesspool that is the Herald's online presence to explain our side of the story, but those who read this blog probably know why we are involved in this litigation.  I wrote three blog entries explaining the Growth Management Hearings Board's decision when it came out in January:

The Growth Management Hearings Board’s Decision on Whatcom County’s Rural Planning, In a Nutshell: Part 1, Sprawl

The Growth Management Hearings Board’s Decision on Whatcom County’s Rural Planning, Part 2, The Elements: Earth, Water and Fire

What Next? Growth Management Hearings Board Decision, Part 3
And, in reverse chronological order, here are some additional blog entries that explore some of the relevant issues:
Science and County Government:  The Perfect Storm – development around Lake Whatcom.
 Stuck in Lake Whatcom
If It Ain’t Broke – agricultural land loss
Rural Element:  No Peace In Our Time
The Golden-Brown Rule – problems with septic tanks in Whatcom County
Wet and Wild Whatcom County – water quality issues
Graphic Interlude – growth in Whatcom County
We Won’t Know What We’ve Got “Till It’s Gone – value of wildlife
It’s Only Money – impervious surfaces and flooding
Rural Sprawl:  Blame Bellingham? 
Whatcom County’s Rural Element:  The Sequel
All of these blogs really explore one issue:  what kind of world will we leave our kids?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Coal Terminal Special: How the 1% Scopes

Let’s see.  So far:

The Gateway Pacific Terminal applicant assures us that its coal terminal project will follow the most exacting environmental procedures and criteria –

after the applicant bulldozed roads, cut down trees, and filled wetlands on Cherry Point, all without the necessary permits.

The GPT applicant exhorts us to “work through the process” –

and subverts the process by paying day laborers to take up limited speaker spots as an inducement for pro-coal bigwigs to speak, while at the same time denying the opportunity to citizens who stood in line for hours to make scoping comments.

The GPT applicant says to “wait for the science” –

while making sure that scoping meetings feature its project cheerleaders, who tout one-sided claims about jobs without waiting for the studies that could show that the coal export project's impacts – on jobs, humans, and the environment -- will result in a net loss to our community, state, region, and world.

GPT’s public relations spokesperson admitted that the project applicant paid day laborers to stand in line at yesterday’s scoping session in Spokane (“'A lot of our people have jobs,' said Hennessey”).   As far as I know, so far the applicant is not admitting that the practice originated in Ferndale – although by all accounts, the folks waiting in line at 8 a.m. for the first spots were not the head of on the staff of the Realtors REALTORS(R) (not representing the REALTORS(R)), the head of the Chamber of Commerce, and Joe Wilson, speakers 4, 5 and AFY.

This practice does suggest a mitigation measure that the 1% can get behind.  Has SSA Marine already committed to hiring folks to sit in line at rail crossings on behalf of our local VIPs, so they won’t have to waste their time waiting for 18 additional mile and a half long trains?  After all, they have jobs! 

For some reason, I found it particularly depressing that the GPT applicant apparently hired the Ferndale Event Center – the location of the Ferndale Scoping Session – for its own equivalent of an airport VIP lounge.  While the wretched masses huddled outdoors in the cold wind, SSA Marine is said to have provided its boosters with a nice buffet.

Scoping agencies, please!  Of all of the entities that you could emulate, could you not choose the airlines? 

Or maybe it’s too late to bypass the omnipresent trappings of our hardening national caste system, even in so-called “public process.”  The justice of the free market demands that the SSA Elite get the first class seating at scoping sessions.  And, as the airlines have taught us, those who haven’t paid extra for the best seats deserve to be treated like cattle.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, I say.  So the next time that somebody starts to talk about how much everybody in Whatcom County is going to benefit from coal terminal money, I’m going to ask for my own personal day laborer, too.  After all, I have a job.  I'm far too busy and important to do anything else.

I think that I’ll request an unemployed English major.  If Get Whatcom Planning’s literary content suddenly exhibits a dramatic improvement, you’ll know that I’ve been bought out.