“Friends and Neighbors”?

Permalink +

Mon, Apr 21, 2014, 12:59 pm  //  Terry Wechsler

Chevron/Petrogas LPG Facility, Ferndale

In their November 29, 2012, comment on the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT), the Northern Whatcom County Small City Caucus (mayors of Blaine, Everson, Ferndale, Lynden, Nooksack, and Sumas) explained why they support GPT:

“The existing Cherry Point industries have been increasingly good neighbors and corporate citizens over time, but their future viability cannot be assumed or taken for granted. The permitting agencies should recognize the importance  of new and diversified job growth within the Cherry Point heavy industrial area as essential to a healthy and sustainable regional economy.”

My first article for NWC noted there has never been an environmental assessment to determine how “appropriate” industrial activity at Cherry Point actually is. As we await the EIS for GPT, it is time to assess our Whatcom County industrial “good neighbors and corporate citizens” with a more critical eye, and consider how they operate and have in the past, since that informs how we can expect them and their corporate brethren in Whatcom County to behave in the future.

This information is incomplete. Data about toxic sites awaiting cleanup is derived from the Washington Dep’t of Ecology’s Hazardous Sites List. Ecology ranks sites 1 to 5, with those with a 1 ranking being the worst sites. For perspective, the GP waterfront site has a rank of 2.

Alcoa Intalco Works:

  • Largest stationary source of carbon monoxide in the area, emitting as much CO as all cars in the county, according to the NW Clean Air Agency. Also significant emitter of SO2, NO2, PM10, and PM2.5. (Note: technology could reduce.)
  • Largest single electricity consumer in the Northwest. 
  • Leading regional source of workplace asbestos exposure according to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance.


  • Two toxic sites in the county (Rank 4 in Acme; rank 5 in Bellingham) awaiting cleanup. 
  • As of February 2014, 17 total hazardous sites state-wide, of which 3 are ranked 1 (in Auburn, Shelton, and Kelso).
  • Rail industry as a whole refuses to voluntarily monitor worker health and medications taken to routinely assess operator impairment.

BP Cherry Point:

  • 1995-2005, BP US led nation in refinery deaths, with 10 times Exxon’s.
  • 2010:  BP Cherry Point cited for 13 “serious safety violations,” fined $69,200. No appeal.
  • 2012:  Refinery fire; six violations cited by WA Dep’t Labor & Industries (L&I), including one willful violation of workplace safety and health rules, $81,500 fine. BP is appealing.
  • Whatcom County PDS No. SEP2012-00059; mitigated determination of nonsignificance (MDNS) dated October 18, 2012, and permit granted for a rail logistics project to receive up to one train per day of crude from the North Dakota Bakken shale beds. Request for reconsideration based on new information of extreme hazards associated with crude by rail denied. Currently does not report how many trains it actually receives.

Chevron LPG, Ferndale:

  • Petrogas Energy Corp. of Calgary announced acquisition of the facility, which stores and distributes bulk shipments of propane, butane and iso-butane (collectively "LPG"), on March 4, 2014. The facility almost exclusively exports to foreign markets, according to industry analyst RBN Energy.
  • Petrogas has not announced if it plans to expand storage capacity (currently 750 MBbl) or rail infrastructure (2 rail sidings), and officials decline to be interviewed.  The facility previously averaged 4-5000 bpd (2-3 vessels/annum), but  the announcement noted the facility’s 30,000 bpd capacity.
  • Transport is dangerous. The most recent FRA advisory about rail transport was issued in 2012; tankers require 500-foot “security zones,” or buffers between them and other vessels. The facility shares Alcoa’s pier.
  • Derailments can result in explosions and fires, posing particular problems when LPG cars are combined with crude for rail shipment as occurs now. 

Phillips 66 (ConocoPhillips) Ferndale Refinery:

  • Persists in using hydrofluoric acid, an acute poison, to boost octane rates in spite of the extreme danger associated with a spill and availability of safer alternative chemicals. Refuses to disclose how this hazardous material is transported to the refinery (vessel, rail, or truck), in spite of the fact that “it’s some of the worst stuff in the spill-response world,” according to Mark MacIntyre, spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Seattle.
  • 2005-11, fined over $200,000 for emission violations by Northwest Clean Air Administration.
  • Fined $6,300 by L&I for 2010 fire caused by improper maintenance.
  • Whatcom County PDS No. SEP2013-00005; MDNS dated April 29, 2013, and permit granted for a rail logistics project to receive up to one train every other day of crude from the North Dakota Bakken shale beds.  Request for reconsideration based on new information of extreme hazards associated with crude by rail denied. Rail infrastructure not yet complete; has not agreed to report how many trains will be received once in operation.

TreOil Industries Limited:

  • Ranked equivalent to GP waterfront on WA Dep’t of Ecology’s list of hazardous sites in Whatcom County awaiting cleanup.
  • Contaminants are leaching into groundwater and later discharged into Puget Sound according to WA Dep’t of Natural Resources’ Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve Plan

Other:  Ecology lists 27 hazardous sites awaiting cleanup in Whatcom County:

  • Rank 1:  Chris V8 in Custer;
  • Rank 2: 5 sites including GP Bellingham waterfront;
  • Rank 3:  9 sites;
  • Rank 4: 3 sites; and
  • Rank 5: 9 sites.

The Small City Mayors’ assertion that growth and diversification within the Cherry Point industrial area are essential to a healthy and sustainable economy is conclusory and requires adequate study of risks posed. Some of those risks were described by the Seattle Times in its front page Easter 2014 article addressing state-wide implications of combined rail and vessel impacts of the now over 20 fossil fuel transportation proposals in the region.

At the county level, it is time to address the cumulative impacts of industrial activity at Cherry Point and elsewhere, and we have 27 reasons to demand such an analysis before any permitting decisions are made that would add to or increase industrial activity. With rumors swirling of possible fracking operations in the Bellingham Basin, it is time to stop doing the easy thing – talking about jobs – and address how we sustainably move into a future that leaves our kids not merely with jobs to go to, but water to drink, fish to eat….

Intalco Smelting Facility, Cherry Point

Georgia Pacific, Bellingham Waterfront

Wendy Harris  //  Mon, Apr 21, 2014, 11:02 pm

Excellent work, Terry.  Do you know when Cherry Point was zoned heavy industrial, because ever since I have been here everyone has treated this an immutable fact.  I am wondering if it was subject to SEPA legally, or at least included in the county’s last EIS for its GMA comp. plan requirements.  And do we have any evidence or information linking the Cherry Point industries to human health problems?  We have very high rates of cancer, and autoimmune disease, and I know from reviewing EPA websites about a year ago, our air quality is not that great, I believe primarily from these industries.

At this point, I am beginning to wonder if there are any safe places left to live in the County or COB, and if not, whether any place else is any better at this point.

Terry Wechsler  //  Tue, Apr 22, 2014, 11:54 am

At some point we should dig down in to the entire regulatory timeline. My general understanding is that the first refinery was permitted in the 50s, but it wasn’t zoned HII until some time after that (in the 70s?) because of its unique characteristics which made it an ideal site for creation of high wage jobs. I got the vague sense that was happening as the Coastal Zone Management Act, Shoreline Management Act, and NEPA and SEPA were coming down the pipeline, but I don’t know with certainty. I was lazy and re-read the CP Aquatic Reserve Management Plan assuming it would reference any EIS, which it did not, though it does seem to comprehensively survey existing studies. I spoke to the director of the Aquatic Reserve Division at DNR to confirm the state had not conducted an EIS for the ARMP. I can also re-read the GPT 1997 FEIS to see if it references any other studies (which it should have if any existed). It’s been a while since I’ve been in that doc, but I have no recollection of any reference, and that should have jumped out if it was there.

I plan to drill down into this issue because the assumptions in the Comp Plan for the Cherry Point UGA may be without any foundation. Protect Whatcom submitted a comment for the EIS for the Comp Plan revisions, specifically challenging the employment projections, arguing that there is no basis to haggle over which higher projection is more appropriate, absent a study of impacts of industrial activity there now, much less those impacts associated with the expanded industrial activity necessary to support the 600-800+ projected additional jobs. Of course, that entire section of the proposed comp plan revisions is a mess, based on assumptions about PIT’s plans that are now outdated. The high employment projections, e.g., assume that there would be industrial development on PIT’s land beyond the footprint of the terminal when the reality is PIT’s permit application describes using the remaining land in its natural state as a wind buffer. The trees are an integral part of their “state-of-the-art” dust suppression system.

In short, if there is any real planning occurring around industrial activity in this county, particularly at CP, I sure can’t find it.

“Friends and Neighbors”?

Mon, Apr 21, 2014, 12:59 pm  //  Terry Wechsler

A closer look at Whatcom County's industrial "stewards of the environment."

2 comments; last on Apr 22, 2014

Killer Industrial Jobs or Long-term Job Killers?

Sun, Apr 06, 2014, 11:52 am  //  Terry Wechsler

Why commenting on the EIS for Comp Plan revisions for Cherry Point means demanding an EIS in the first place.

4 comments; last on Apr 13, 2014

Village Books

In historic Fairhaven. Take Exit 250 from I-5.

County Hires GPT Permit Lead as Senior Planner

Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 9:51 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley digs into an unusual hiring decision at the County Planning Dept

1 comments; last on Mar 10, 2014

Whatcom Watch Editor Resigns

Sun, Mar 02, 2014, 2:22 pm  //  John Servais

The editor of the Whatcom Watch, Richard Jehn, has resigned effective today. Chalk up a victory for Craig Cole and Pacific International Terminals.

8 comments; last on Mar 05, 2014

Relevant Documents to Libel Threat

Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 8:29 pm  //  John Servais

The full text of Craig Cole's threatening letter of libel against the Whatcom Watch. And the emptiness of the threat.

16 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014

Craig Cole Threatens Libel Suit

Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 4:48 pm  //  John Servais

Craig Cole, the local contact for the proposed Cherry Point coal port has threatened the Whatcom Watch with a libel lawsuit.

6 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014

How the Coal Industry Funneled $40,000 into Whatcom

Wed, Oct 02, 2013, 5:40 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley uncovers how the Coal Industry is funding conservative candidates in Whatcom County

11 comments; last on Oct 03, 2013

Safeguard the Southfork

Thu, May 30, 2013, 11:01 pm  //  Guest writer

Jeffrey Margolis urges us to request the Nooksack South Fork Valley be included in the Coal Port environmental study.

3 comments; last on Jun 02, 2013

Coal Trains and Unhealthy Air - Any Connection?

Sun, May 05, 2013, 2:45 pm  //  John Servais

Help fund a scientific study looking for links between diesel locomotives, coal trains and unhealthy air.


EIS Scoping Period for GPT is Closed

Tue, Jan 22, 2013, 6:19 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Links to a few noteworthy GPT scoping comments .

1 comments; last on Jan 22, 2013

Video of Mudslide Derailing Train Monday

Wed, Dec 19, 2012, 11:12 am  //  John Servais

A dramatic video of yet another mudslide near Everett - and what will be coming down on coal trains. Amtrak service to Bellingham is shut down.

4 comments; last on Dec 20, 2012

Coal Ship Wrecks Vancouver Terminal

Sat, Dec 08, 2012, 1:43 pm  //  John Servais

A giant coal freighter went right through the long dock early Friday morning. Nothing in print edition of Herald

3 comments; last on Dec 11, 2012

Lummi Nation Opposes Coal Terminal

Fri, Sep 21, 2012, 8:53 am  //  John Servais

Bellingham Business Journal breaking story - Lummi's to hold meeting today at noon to speak against the Cherry Point project.

7 comments; last on Nov 04, 2012

The Political Junkie interviews “Power Past Coal”

Mon, Aug 20, 2012, 8:00 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley sits down with Matt Petryni with Power Past Coal to get the latest scoop


Coal Free Bellingham: Point Proven?

Thu, Aug 09, 2012, 8:30 pm  //  Larry Horowitz

Questions raised by the Superior Court's barring of the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights initiative from being placed on the ballot.

21 comments; last on Aug 17, 2012

BNSF Shoreline Improvements for the Proposed Gateway Pacific Coal Port

Sun, Jul 15, 2012, 12:54 am  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein we see the Railroad walking it's walk while we get ready to talk our talk.

1 comments; last on Jul 16, 2012

Planning Commissioner Mocks Environmental Concern For Coal Terminal

Sun, Jan 15, 2012, 12:06 am  //  Wendy Harris

Planning Commissioner Onkels should recuse himself from review of environmental impacts at GPT.

3 comments; last on Feb 08, 2012

The Cole Train: Loads of BS

Sun, Dec 04, 2011, 5:53 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein the sooty prospect of economic necessity rears its ugly head

2 comments; last on Dec 05, 2011

Update on Cherry Point Buffer Mitigation Proposal

Fri, Dec 02, 2011, 2:08 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Planning Staff's recommended revision will not prevent SSA from reducing wetland buffers.


County Proposal Includes New Cherry Point Buffer Mitigation Requirements

Tue, Nov 22, 2011, 10:29 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The County's new mitigation proposal is unlikely to be adequate for Cherry Point's industrial impacts to habitat buffers

3 comments; last on Nov 24, 2011

Cameras, not coal, decided the election

Sat, Nov 19, 2011, 9:24 pm  //  Paul deArmond

Looking at the numbers for the Bellingham elections

11 comments; last on Nov 22, 2011

Bad Idea, Wrong Place, and Wrong Time

Mon, Oct 31, 2011, 3:07 pm  //  Guest writer

Bob Ferris of Re-Sources takes a values based perspective on our community and a possible coal port.

9 comments; last on Nov 02, 2011

From the Political Junkie: Why is Dan Pike talking about Coal Trains?

Thu, Sep 08, 2011, 9:37 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Look at the title, it spells it out.

6 comments; last on Sep 12, 2011

“Coal on a Roll” - in depth from onearth.org

Thu, Sep 01, 2011, 2:46 pm  //  John Servais

George Black is comprehensive on the Powder River coal basin, BNSF, and the shipping of coal from Cherry Point and Longview.

6 comments; last on Sep 07, 2011

SSA already started construction at Cherry Point

Fri, Jul 29, 2011, 10:11 am  //  John Servais

The Gateway Pacific coal port appears to be under construction now - secretly and w/o permits.

36 comments; last on Aug 05, 2011

The Cole Train: Tell it to the Herring

Mon, Jun 20, 2011, 10:42 am  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein something smells a bit fishy

2 comments; last on Jul 29, 2011

On the Take - Coal Port advocates

Wed, Jun 08, 2011, 1:09 pm  //  John Servais

Who all is on the take? Who all has not been up front about being on the take for the Coal Port?

4 comments; last on Jun 12, 2011

Running blog on Coal Port

Fri, Jun 03, 2011, 11:56 am  //  John Servais

A running update of links and info on the Coal Port and Trains of proposed Gateway Pacific at Cherry Point.

15 comments; last on Jun 29, 2011

Dave Warren plays the martyr

Thu, Jun 02, 2011, 6:45 pm  //  John Servais

The public meeting to hear opinions about the coal port last night saw local union leader Dave Warren playing games.

3 comments; last on Jun 05, 2011

Flash mob for coal meeting

Wed, Jun 01, 2011, 4:32 pm  //  Guest writer

Guest writer Mark Flanders' call to action for June 1 flash mob at coal port meeting

7 comments; last on Jun 09, 2011

The Cole Train: First Salvo

Mon, May 30, 2011, 10:40 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein blackened hearts and minds are initially examined

6 comments; last on Jun 02, 2011

Cross-County Coal Train is Coming

Fri, Mar 25, 2011, 4:00 am  //  John Servais

Coal trains will probably pass Lynden on their way from Sumas to Cherry Point, after coming across on the Canadian rail roads.

16 comments; last on Aug 14, 2011


New Links

Julia Ioffe/New Republic
the Oatmeal

Current Interest

Community Wise Bellingham
Friends of Whatcom
Guardian Unlimited
Lummi Island Quarry
Reconveyance Challenge
Whatcom Elections

Publisher Recommended

Guardian Unlimited
League of Women Voters
Paul Krugman - economics
Sweeney Politics

Local Blogs & News

Bellingham Herald
Bham Herald Politics Blog
Bham Politics & Economics
Bob Sanders
Cascadia Weekly
Citizen Ted
Ferndale Record
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
Jack Petree
Latte Republic
League of Women Voters
Lynden Tribune
Northern Light
Sweeney Politics
Twilight Zoning
Wally Wonders
Western Front - WWU
Whatcom Watch

Local Causes

Bellingham Police Activity
Chuckanut Community Forest
Chuckanut Mountains
Citizens of Bellingham
City Club of Bellingham
Community Wise Bellingham
Conservation NW
Cordata & Meridian
Facebook Port Reform
Futurewise - Whatcom
Lake Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
RE Sources
Reconveyance Challenge
Reduce Jet Noise
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary Building
Transition Whatcom
WA Conservation Voters


Port of Bellingham
Skagit County
US - The White House
WA State Access
WA State Elections
WA State Legislature
Whatcom Auditor
Whatcom County
Whatcom Elections

Weather & Climate

Cliff Mass Weather Blog
Climate Audit
NW Radar
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That? - climate


Adventures NW
Edge of Sports
Entertainment NNW
Famous Internet Skiers
Sailing Anarchy

Good Links

Al-Jazeera online
Alaska Dispatch
Arab News
Asia Times
Atlantic, The
Common Dreams
Crosscut Seattle
Daily Kos
Daily Mirror
Drudge Report
Foreign Policy in Focus
Guardian Unlimited
Gulf News
Huffington Post
Innocence Project, The
Intrnational Herald Tribune
James Fallows
Jerusalem Post
Joel Connelly
Juan Cole
Julia Ioffe/New Republic
Le Diplo
Media Matters
Michael Moore
Middle East Times
Nation, The
New American Century
News Trust
Online Journal
Palestine Daily
Palestine News
Paul Krugman - economics
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Progressive Review
Project Vote Smart
Sea Shepherd
Talking Points Memo
the Oatmeal
Tom Paine.com
War and Piece
Washington Votes

NwCitizen 1995 - 2007

Early Northwest Citizen

Internet At Its Best


Quiet, Offline or Dead

Bellingham Register
Carl Weimer
David Hackworth
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Northwest Review
Post-Oklahoman Confessions
Protect Bellingham Parks
The American Telegraph
The Crisis Papers