The Political Junkie interviews “Power Past Coal”Permalink +
Mon, Aug 20, 2012, 8:00 am // Riley Sweeney
Riley's Note: As usual, you can find more pictures, interviews, analysis and commentary over at my home site The Political Junkie
With initiatives, campaigns and millions in advertising dollars, I figured I would take a break from the insanity of electoral politics and write about something non-controversial, like exporting coal out of Whatcom County. To that end, I sought out "Power Past Coal", a regional effort to motivate people to oppose exporting coal.
I sat down with Matt Petryni, campaign manager with Power Past Coal in Whatcom County, to get the inside scoop on the effort to stop the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point. Petryni, a Sehome High School graduate, grew up in Bellingham. "This is a community I care about a lot. It's a community that I have watched evolved since then. It has become much more environmentally aware as my generation becomes more politically involved." He smiles and hastily adds that there are many environmentally active baby boomers, too. "I got involved because of my mom. She was concerned about the coal port, and brought me into the picture."
So what is Power Past Coal? "Power Past Coal is a regional coalition that RE Sources helped start to stop coal in all the regional communities that are going to be affected. We are the northwest region, but there are groups in Longview and other communities." How did this group start? "When the proposal came to Cherry Point, the various environmental groups started talking to each other and formed a united front, an attempt to coordinate the events to stop the coal export in the Pacific Northwest. Hence: Power past coal."
So what do you folks do? "My focus is to motivate volunteers to organize the community against coal export. What that usually entails is the usual political tactics of knocking on doors, making phone calls, identifying supporters and those who haven't made up their mind, and motivating them to speak out to their elected officials."
Which elected officials? "County council mainly, they are the people who get to decide on the scope of what is studied in the application, and decide to approve the application." There has been some legal dispute (see fellow blogger, and County Council expert Shane Roth's take on it here) about whether the county council can even talk about the issue before the environmental impact statement is presented to them.
Petryni is skeptical of the council's legal position. "The legal advice that they are getting is that they can't talk about it and take a position until the process has gone through. I think it is excessively conservative on their part. For a while, they couldn't even hear anything about it. But at some point, they are going to open the scoping process to hear public comment. When they open the process, then they will then be able to hear about it. When they start hearing comments in earnest, we will activate the people we have identified on this. It is the get-out-the-vote effort, even though no one is actually voting on the issue." He also noted that co-lead agencies (translation: other goverment groups involved) such as the Department of Ecology and the Army Corps of Engineers are taking a big role in the permitting process, and they ARE taking comments.
So when will the county council be accepting comments on this project? "Latest rumor is mid-September, but there are people out there saying November. It is a four month public comment period which is completely unprecedented. Usually the comment period is thirty days, then maybe sixty days. RE Sources thought the legal max was ninety days. The county council came back with 120 days, including Sam Crawford, so we said, 'You, sir, drive a hard bargain, but I think we will take it.'”
Speaking of voting, there is another local group working on this issue, Coal-Free Bellingham. They are trying to place an initiative on the November ballot that would reclaim the people's right to regulate commerce through the city, so they can block the coal trains. I covered their first public meeting here. They are not associated with Power Past Coal, so I asked Petryni for his opinion on them.
"I really support the effort of Coal Free Bellingham in a lot of ways. It is impressive that they collected 10,000 signatures in three months, and I think that it demonstrates the sheer magnatude of opposition against the coal terminal in Bellingham." But then he sighs. "However, the city council and Judge Snyder have determined that the way their initiative is written directly conflicts with the state and federal constitution, creating a legal hurdle. I realize that our system of laws does not have the protection we need of natural resources; natural resources are not considered legal persons. They are trying to assert that. But, again, we are not involved in that. We are a 501c non-profit; we have to be very careful about how we address any sort of political involvement. We are an advocacy group, obviously, but we are trying to avoid any involvement with ballot issues and candidates."
He also expressed some mild irritation about how this came about. "This is a two step process. First we need to make sure that people are opposed to the terminal and those people who are opposed to it are identified and motivated. Once we have accomplished that, THEN we can move forward with ballot measures and political efforts, but we need to do things in the right order." He takes a moment and collects his thoughts. "It is an interesting idea, whether or not it is going to work is debatable. I like the idea that they are challenging the legal ruling. If you want to change our fundamental system of laws, just blocking the coal terminal seems reasonable by comparison, it has the effect of moving the debate in a more positive direction."
So back to Power Past Coal, what is your number one reason for opposing the Cherry Point Terminal? "For me it is climate change. I see climate change as the defining issue of my generation and it affects so many people in so many ways, as we are seeing this summer. Stopping this coal terminal keeps 5.7 gigatons of CO2 out of our atmosphere. We expect our environment to be able to change 2 degrees Celsius without catastrophic consequences and we have already created 0.8 degrees of change. Adding more CO2 will only make it worse."
But what about the economic benefits to our community? "We have other options for our economic development. You don't look to coal country for economic development, it isn't a strong economic engine. Timber is a renewable resource, software is a renewable resource; if we support and maintain those industries they will last for hundreds of year. Coal will only last for one generation. We want to be able to pass down to our children a cleaner, healthier and safer world, and this is not the way to do that."
What about your volunteers, what motivates them? "A lot of our volunteers are motivated by climate change. They want the opportunity to change the world. This is part of a movement to redefine civilization itself. For other people, this will kill their property values, it means 18 trains a day of new traffic, it will be devastating on our fisheries." He cracks a big smile, "My experience has been there is no shortage of reasons to hate this project."
Petryni works full-time for RE Sources, the environmental non-profit that has operated in Bellingham since 1982. "This is pretty much all I do with my life these days, but . . . I'm doing God's work, so it is worth it."
How can someone help if they want to volunteer? Petryni urges potential volunteers to come to their office at 215 Holly St. in Bellingham, or contact them through their website. "Usually volunteers come here and call their friends and neighbors and ask them how they feel about coal export. Two hours a week is not big commitment. We send people out knocking on doors, we do tabling at various events. We do a lot of things like that. Our priority is making sure that our community knows the impacts, and give people the opportunities to organize other people. Its just the good, old fashioned, community organizing."
And with that, Petryni is off, packing up his Farmer's Market bucket with one of his interns, to go out and persuade the people. If you want more information about Power Past Coal, you can check out their website here. I hope to have an interview with one of the groups on the other side of this issue in the next couple of weeks.
Sun, Nov 23, 2014, 3:27 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein Whatcom's Klan heritage may be oozing from some cracks
5 comments; last on Nov 26, 2014
Sat, Nov 22, 2014, 2:48 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley dives into the data with precinct maps and historical perspectives
Thu, Nov 20, 2014, 8:15 am // Dick ConoboyCampus Crest Communities, Inc. has officially offered for sale the Lincoln St. property that was to be a student apartment development.
2 comments; last on Nov 23, 2014
Wed, Nov 12, 2014, 12:51 pm // John ServaisUpdated Nov 12. Howard Harris, the founder of the Bellingham silent peace vigil at the Federal Building in Bellingham, has died. He and Rosemary were leaders in our…
Tue, Nov 11, 2014, 1:34 pm // John ServaisOn this Veterans Day, a note about how vets need our government to step up - as has never been done. And a personal note on the power…
3 comments; last on Nov 13, 2014
Thu, Nov 06, 2014, 5:53 am // Dick ConoboyThe Campus Crest apartment complex may be the "victim" of a corporate restructuring plan.
3 comments; last on Nov 10, 2014
Tue, Nov 04, 2014, 11:28 am // John ServaisWhile smearing Seth Fleetwood over a common tax arrangement, we discover Doug Ericksen also has a benign tax lien - one he denied.
6 comments; last on Nov 11, 2014
Sat, Nov 01, 2014, 11:29 am // Tip JohnsonOr why to vote for Nyima, the dog, for County Prosecutor
4 comments; last on Nov 03, 2014
Thu, Oct 30, 2014, 1:18 am // John ServaisA link to Riley's Political Junkie for excellent recommendations - and a few thoughts of my own.
1 comments; last on Oct 30, 2014
Thu, Oct 23, 2014, 10:01 am // Tip JohnsonIt's just how things roll in Whatcom County
5 comments; last on Oct 26, 2014
Wed, Oct 22, 2014, 1:44 pm // John LesowUpdate Oct 22: John Lesow has posted a comment with considerable more information on this issue.
1 comments; last on Oct 22, 2014
Tue, Oct 14, 2014, 5:36 am // Riley SweeneyRiley does a local political comedy show
1 comments; last on Oct 15, 2014
Wed, Oct 08, 2014, 5:24 pm // John ServaisThree final candidates for Bellingham Planning Director spoke today at a cozy 'meet and greet' of government employees and developers.
6 comments; last on Oct 11, 2014
Sat, Oct 04, 2014, 11:23 am // Tip JohnsonWherein we see that sometimes government can do what business can't.
9 comments; last on Oct 07, 2014
Fri, Oct 03, 2014, 9:26 am // Dick ConoboyAn experienced real estate inspector provides a window to the dangeroous conditions found in rentals in Bellingham
3 comments; last on Oct 05, 2014
Thu, Oct 02, 2014, 1:33 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley files a full report of the Tea Party debate for State Leg candidates
1 comments; last on Oct 04, 2014
Tue, Sep 30, 2014, 7:00 am // Guest writerWherein a Fulbright scholar, professional engineer and successful business owner files for public office
4 comments; last on Oct 02, 2014
Mon, Sep 22, 2014, 4:07 am // Dick ConoboyLast Thursday, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the docketing of the spot rezone of 801 Samish from Residential Single to Commerical Planned (non-retail)
6 comments; last on Oct 03, 2014
Wed, Sep 17, 2014, 9:26 am // John ServaisWe post a disturbing report of a personal encounter along Samish Way, with the permission of John Stark, who experienced it.
2 comments; last on Sep 17, 2014
Tue, Sep 09, 2014, 7:21 am // Riley SweeneyRiley and John share the short list of who might replace Cathy Lehman on the Bellingham city council on January 5.
8 comments; last on Sep 10, 2014
Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 10:48 am // Terry WechslerWhile the state spends hundreds of thousands of dollars defining risks of crude by rail, Skagit County finds no significant adverse impacts of a crude-by-rail proposal.
1 comments; last on Aug 28, 2014
Fri, Aug 22, 2014, 1:06 pm // Guest writerPatrick McKee of the Sunnyland Neighborhood guest-writes about the August 11 City Council slap-dash zoning changes.
2 comments; last on Aug 23, 2014
Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 3:54 pm // Terry WechslerNot content with causing massive inconvenience, BNSF is now literally dumping on county residents.
10 comments; last on Aug 26, 2014
Sat, Aug 16, 2014, 2:48 pm // Guest writerJudith Green of the Sunnyland Neighborhood guest writes this brief summary of what went wrong with the planning last week.
1 comments; last on Aug 22, 2014
Fri, Aug 15, 2014, 6:12 am // Terry WechslerA massive upgrade of the Cascade [rail] Corridor has left residents stranded and the sheriff asking Washington, DC, to intervene.
7 comments; last on Sep 02, 2014
Thu, Aug 14, 2014, 2:13 pm // Guest writerSandy Robson guest writes of the need for real prosperity at Cherry Point, not a destructive short term coal port that destroys the fishing grounds.
5 comments; last on Oct 02, 2014
Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 9:52 am // Riley SweeneySome Context for the Primary Results
Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 10:31 pm // John ServaisBellingham City Council abruptly changes zoning codes to force Planning Department plan on Sunnyland residents.
7 comments; last on Aug 14, 2014
Fri, Aug 08, 2014, 9:10 am // John ServaisUpdated Wed evening. The Tuesday evening 8:20 pm Auditor report on the election is in.
5 comments; last on Aug 08, 2014
Fri, Aug 01, 2014, 7:00 am // Dick ConoboyCouncilmember Murphy's proposal is based on a complaint-based rental ordinance from Tacoma, demonstrated to do little for the health and safety of tenants.
14 comments; last on Oct 01, 2014
Fri, Aug 01, 2014, 3:47 am // Terry WechslerCarefully planned actions are rolling across the state to make the point that it's not OK to expose us to risks associated with CBR.
7 comments; last on Aug 04, 2014
Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 10:40 am // Riley SweeneyNorthwest Citizen has conducted a phone poll of likely voters, with some surprising results!
9 comments; last on Jul 29, 2014
Thu, Jul 24, 2014, 6:52 am // Dick ConoboyIn contravention of the Bellingham Municipal Code, the City Council will consider on 4 August a last minute docketing request that ignores the Planning Commission and Samish Neighborhood.
1 comments; last on Jul 30, 2014
Wed, Jul 23, 2014, 9:47 pm // Guest writerGuest writer Mike Rostron explains how Bellingham city planners played loose and illegal with planning processes.
Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 6:22 pm // John ServaisSunnlyland residents win one - after a seven year effort. Planning Department failed them and all of us.
2 comments; last on Jul 23, 2014
Mon, Jul 21, 2014, 4:30 am // Guest writerLandlords are so caught up opposing a licensing and inspection ordinance, they cannot see the upside for them in ridding the city of bad rentals.
19 comments; last on Aug 01, 2014
Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 12:24 pm // Guest writerJudith Green explains how the Bellingham Planning Department is trying to cram their plan onto a neighborhood.
5 comments; last on Jul 21, 2014
Sun, Jul 13, 2014, 1:26 pm // Terry WechslerYears after BP completed its north dock, the Army Corps of Engineers released a draft EIS and it's really really stupid.
Tue, Jul 08, 2014, 7:20 am // Dick ConoboyThe city council "persuades" the city administration to withdraw a request for an intrusive police threat warning system
2 comments; last on Jul 08, 2014
Mon, Jul 07, 2014, 5:54 am // Terry WechslerIt is time we stop allowing corporations to externalize the costs associated with their risky business practices, and demand more from our regulators who hold the keys to…
3 comments; last on Jul 13, 2014
Mon, Jul 07, 2014, 4:04 am // Guest writerGuest writer Sandy Robson breaks the story of officials from Washington treated to a coal-promoting junket to Wyoming.
2 comments; last on Jul 13, 2014
Fri, Jul 04, 2014, 4:00 am // Guest writerFerndale's most famous landmark is frequently commented on and is often in the news. Here is their side of the story.
4 comments; last on Jul 07, 2014
Wed, Jul 02, 2014, 4:14 pm // Terry WechslerOn the anniversary of the Lac-Megantic disaster, communities throughout North America rally in solidarity to remember and protest wholly inadequate government response to crude-by-rail's risks.
4 comments; last on Jul 12, 2014
Fri, Jun 27, 2014, 8:01 pm // Guest writerIn the Weekly, Tim Johnson left out three words in quoting Craig Cole - and his story misleads readers. Guest article by Sandy Robson.
11 comments; last on Jul 01, 2014
Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 9:24 am // Dick ConoboyThe Bellingham Police Department wants to purchase "threat assessment" software with federal monies. Citizen comments were vehement and negative. City Council confused.
5 comments; last on Jul 03, 2014
Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 9:18 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the failings of a bad policy framework are revealed
1 comments; last on Jun 19, 2014
Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 6:53 am // Dick ConoboyThe possession and use of consumer fireworks are no longer permitted within the city limits.
1 comments; last on Jun 19, 2014
Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 10:39 am // John ServaisWyoming Senators and coal honchos were in Whatcom County June 10 - to hold a news conference with select reporters.
7 comments; last on Jun 20, 2014
Tue, Jun 10, 2014, 10:20 am // John ServaisBellingham Hearing Examiner, Dawn Sturwold, retires in three weeks. Successor selection is hidden from all of us.
3 comments; last on Jun 11, 2014
Fri, Jun 06, 2014, 1:07 pm // Terry WechslerPart 2: Following Ken Oplinger to California, and Home Again
4 comments; last on Jun 19, 2014
Sat, May 31, 2014, 11:39 pm // Guest writerA Venn diagram where coal, the Endangered Species Act, Republicans, and Wyoming’s Board of Education collide.
2 comments; last on Jun 02, 2014
Wed, May 28, 2014, 2:15 pm // Guest writerA perspective by guest writer Ellen Murphy reflects on the Whatcom Watch and the threatened law suit by Craig Cole.
22 comments; last on Jun 01, 2014
Tue, May 27, 2014, 12:23 am // Wendy HarrisWhy was so little consideration given to the concept of developing the waterfront for eco-tourism?
5 comments; last on Jun 11, 2014
Mon, May 26, 2014, 6:51 pm // Wendy HarrisCity park improvements have implications on the local and global scale.
2 comments; last on May 29, 2014
Wed, May 21, 2014, 11:10 pm // Guest writerWyoming is ready to try and legally force us to limit our environmental scoping for the Cherry Point coal terminal
4 comments; last on Jun 17, 2014
Sun, May 18, 2014, 10:57 pm // Wendy HarrisReckless rezones and far-fetched explanations result in more slaughterhouses and meat packing plants
3 comments; last on May 20, 2014
Sat, May 17, 2014, 1:34 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley takes a closer look at the Charter Review Commission candidates
2 comments; last on May 21, 2014
Tue, May 13, 2014, 4:04 pm // Wendy HarrisBellingham's annual water quality report indicates that city hall's propoganda machine is going strong
1 comments; last on May 14, 2014
Sun, May 11, 2014, 1:20 pm // Terry WechslerPart 1: Introduction to the Bellingham Basin’s Potential for Fracking, Earthquakes, and Earthquakes Due to Fracking
3 comments; last on May 14, 2014
Fri, May 09, 2014, 9:02 am // John ServaisThe Political Junkie for Whatcom County - that would be Riley Sweeney - has Overstreet not running for reelection in the 42nd.
1 comments; last on May 13, 2014
Election InfoCounty election results
State election results
Coal, Oil & Trains
Community Wise Bellingham
Powder River Basin R. C.
Local Blogs & NewsBellingham Herald
Bham Herald Politics Blog
Bham Politics & Economics
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
League of Women Voters
Western Front - WWU
Local CausesChuckanut Community Forest
City Club of Bellingham
Futurewise - Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
Reduce Jet Noise
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary Building
WA Conservation Voters
Whatcom Peace & Justice
Port of Bellingham
State election results
US - The White House
WA State Access
WA State Elections
WA State Legislature
Weather & ClimateCliff Mass Weather Blog
Nat Hurricane Center
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That? - climate
Edge of Sports
Famous Internet Skiers
Good Web SitesAl-Jazeera online
Foreign Policy in Focus
Innocence Project, The
Intrnational Herald Tribune
Julia Ioffe/New Republic
Middle East Times
New American Century
Paul Krugman - economics
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Project Vote Smart
Stand for the Troops
Talking Points Memo
The Crisis Papers
War and Piece
NwCitizen 1995 - 2007Early Northwest Citizen
Quiet, Offline or DeadBellingham Police Activity
Citizens of Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
Facebook Port Reform
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Protect Bellingham Parks
The American Telegraph