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.


  1. #eyeRoll with a side of #facePalm


  2. Jean,

    I don't think your blog is very fair, for the most part.

    Regarding the Businessweek article, read the thing and the writer simply doesn't have the emotional attachment to the issue you do so the piece simply reports that the law of supply and demand apply... kind of like, "We are no longer sending expeditions to the moon so the price of rocks brought back from the moon when we were going there has risen."

    Regarding your comment about "Just build the thing," I think of the leader of the House Ds saying of Obamacare something like, "We won't really know what it means until we adopt it." The fact is, the Vancouver accident was pretty minor, less than a carload of coal was spilled. Is that really a big deal? Probably not.

    As to the P-I article, the paper's headline, "Doing coal's dirty work," pretty much tells the reader about the no longer newspaper's bias on the issue. An analysis of the PR firm's approach to telling its client's story is certainly appropriate but that is not the thrust of the story. It wouuld be like a headline proclaiming your law firm, one of the nation's big ones, "anti-business" becaue of your representation of David and the boys.

    There are upsides and downsides to the so called "coal terminal." No one is well served by a single minded focus on one side or the other without consideration of legitimate arguments. Taking a position is well and good and appropropriate. Ignoring all discussion that might show you to be even a bit in error is not appropriate. I fight doing that myself sometimes and hope you might consider thinking a bit more about the issues as well.

    1. I hope that you feel better, Jack. That was quite an emotional outpouring.

  3. Jack's caricature of me as anti-business is not only wrong - it is disturbing. While it is worthy of response, my time and patience with Jack's wild accusations has long since diminished. The only anti-business brush that Jack can paint me with are developments like Gold Star that locate in rural areas, pay NO impact fees and suck business from urban areas. I have never opposed business development in urban areas, and my record of successful economic development planning in Wenatchee stands head and shoulders above what is happening here in Whatcom County - which, by the way, has NO economic development strategy.

    1. I think that Jack is just lashing out at the fact that it's becoming increasingly apparent that the coal terminal proposal is facing a lot of obstacles.

      The accident at Westshore is a fact. Westshore has filed a lawsuit against the [Japanese-owned, Panama-flagged] ship involved in the accident, alleging operator negligence. GPT won't be surrounded by a magic shroud that prevents human error, and as there are more and more enormous marine vessels traversing the Salish Sea, the odds of accidents merely increase. Just a fact.

      The "grassroots" campaign for the terminal is in fact a corporate effort run by coal interests. Jack can claim that everybody who uncovers these not-well-hidden facts is a socialist meany-pants, but the facts remain.

      All of this is clearly upsetting to Jack, and his reaction is to call people names. Really, there's nothing in his posting that is worth a response.

      Well, I suppose I could point out that two of my four clients in the Growth Management Act case are not "boys," but then -- Jack's characterization is just part and parcel of the fact-free zone in which his post operated.