Manifest Clandestine-y

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Mon, Jul 07, 2014, 5:04 am  //  Guest writer

Cover of brochure for Washington elected officials visit to Wyoming. Two Bellingham coal port proponents also attended.

Guest writer Sandy Robson submitted this article, which includes some fine research.  

When Wyoming’s governor, Matt Mead, visited Longview, Washington, on June 3 to advocate for the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals at Longview (MBTL), there was plenty of news coverage in both states before and after his visit. 

However, very few people heard about the May 14 journey to Gillette, Wyoming by business and labor leaders as well as elected officials from Washington state. Their two-day trip included tours of Cloud Peak Energy’s Cordero Rojo Mine, Basin Electric’s Dry Fork Power Plant, Wyoming Senator John Hine’s (R-Gillette) ranch, Gillette College Educational Center, and Campbell County Recreational Center. In fact, a tour brochure outlined every step of their trip, and listed all the Washington and Wyoming participants.

To make sure they were well fed with both food and pro-coal information, they were treated to dinners featuring speakers from SSA Marine, BNSF, MBTL, and Cloud Peak Energy — all of which have an urgent need for proposed coal terminals to be approved and built. Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) in Whatcom County, WA, and MBTL in Longview, WA, would handle, store, and export 48 million tons and 44 million tons of coal respectively.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead and Gillette Mayor John Opseth invited the Washington delegation. The pro-coal trip was courtesy of the state of Wyoming. The elected officials from Washington state were: three county commissioners: Mike Karnofski (Cowlitz County), Rick Miller (Franklin County), and Jean Ryckman (Pasco County); two mayors: Ron Onslow (Ridgefield) and Sean Guard (Washougal); one State Representative: Paul Harris (R-District 17, Vancouver); and four city council members: Ken Botero (Longview), Bill Turlay (Vancouver), Al Yenney (Pasco), and Ray Minor (Connell).

In addition to these state and community leaders, Bellinghamsters John Huntley and Brad Owens, co-chairs of the Northwest Jobs Alliance (NWJA), were also part of this delegation. For readers who don’t already know, NWJA is a marketing arm for the proposed GPT, consisting solely of a facebook page created in May 2011. It lists as its website address, and the phone number listed on the facebook page does not work. 

Brad Owens is a business representative for the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)191. John Huntley has owned Bellingham’s Mills Electric since 2007. In GPT’s May 29 promotional post on the IBEW 191 website, Huntley says of the trip, “When it comes to coal dust, at least in Wyoming it is a myth.”  He continues, “We toured the surface mines by bus to see the operations first-hand and did not see any coal dust. We visited a coal-fired power plant where you could eat off of the floors because they were so clean and there were no visible emissions coming from the stacks.”

While Huntley claims he saw no visible emissions from the stacks at the Dry Fork Power Plant, according to an October 7, 2013 Casper Star-Tribune article, “Even the 2-year-old Dry Fork Station north of Gillette emits about 2,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour. Power plant owner Basin Electric touts the plant as one of the cleanest coal-fired power plants in the U.S.” The article also reported that most coal-fired plants in Wyoming, including the Dry Fork plant which has only been in operation for two years, emit carbon dioxide at a much higher rate than the EPA's proposed federal limit (at the time of the article). 

Huntley also said, “One of the most impressive things that I watched is the land being reclaimed after mining was over.”

Yet, an independent organization of scientists and journalists researching and reporting on changing climate and its impact, disagrees. A January 19, article states, “Coal companies tout the success of reclamation. BLM regulations require performance bonds and say mined areas must be restored to ‘approximate original contours’ with water and habitat in healthy condition. 

But the Western Organization of Resource Councils, a nonprofit fighting coal development, analyzed BLM reports and found otherwise: ‘Coal mining has disturbed more than 162,000 acres of land in Wyoming,’ the group wrote, ‘but only 4 percent of this land has gained final reclamation status’ with full restoration and legal release from the bond.” 

The article also reported that Wyoming rancher L.J. Turner, whose family has owned their 10,000-acre ranch since 1918, says streams on his ranch now dry up in the summer except for spring holes. He reports fish, beaver, mink, and muskrats (aquatic and semi-aquatic animals) are mostly gone. 

“From Antelope Creek north to Gillette, all the aquifers are being cut by mines. Water upstream is draining away.” Turner further explained that the aquifer is about 90-100 feet deep, so when sliced open by blasting and power shovels, water collects in the bottom of the mines. Some of it is pumped out, some used for wetting mine roads or other mining uses. But for the rancher, Turner says, “It’s just gone.”

Turner’s wife, Karen, says her biggest concern is water. “There’s not enough of it now, and it’s dirty. We drink bottled water because our water smells like hydrogen sulfide, and it didn’t used to.”

On his return from Wyoming, Longview City Council member Ken Botero compiled a report about the tour to share with fellow council members. In it, Botero speaks highly of the facilities and services Campbell County’s leaders have provided their communities, which he believes provide for a positive economy for their communities. There is no mention of any adverse impacts of the mining and/or transportation of Wyoming’s coal on those communities: impacts to water supply and quality; air quality; agricultural land; and endangered species in the area. There are also adverse impacts from a large increase in coal train traffic and the blasting operations at coal-mines. 

Meanwhile, one has to wonder why there has been no press coverage of this tour by the Washington state delegation. The only mention so far is the May 29 GPT promotional bulletin on the IBEW 191 website. News coverage of the Wyoming trip would have revealed the sales campaign of the coal industry and companies behind the proposed Washington coal terminals. Our local press has a responsibility to alert potentially imperiled communities to the war being waged on us by the coal industry's money-motivated representatives.

John Huntley - second from left, and Brad Owens - far right, with four Wyoming officials on the shore at Cherry Point on June 10 of this year.

Dena Jensen  //  Fri, Jul 11, 2014, 12:17 pm

Just a heads-up for those who may not have clicked the tour brochure link in the second paragraph above to view its contents:  not only are the names of those invited from Washington state and the places they were to visit listed, there is also a “Contact List” of Wyoming representatives that anyone opposed to the menace of unclean coal terminals in our state, the mass destruction of our natural landscapes and the biosphere that mining produces, and dirty energy in general can make very good use of to freely express their opinions.

Sandy Robson  //  Sun, Jul 13, 2014, 7:50 pm

I posted my above article today on Whatcom Watch Facebook and someone posted a comment there saying that it looked like Wyoming managed to find the least influential elected officials in our state for a free trip to the strip mines in Wyoming. I thought that might be worth addressing here under my article, as it’s possible other people reading my article may share that thinking.

It actually seems as though the invites to WA politicians were done pretty strategically by the state of Wyoming (aka Big Coal).

Hopefully this information below may shed some light as to why elected officials from the counties of Franklin County, Pasco County, Cowlitz County (MBTL would be located in Cowlitz County), and the cities of Ridgefield, Connell, Washougal, Vancouver, and Longview (MBTL would be located in Longview) were invited on this Wyoming pro-coal tour.

It looks like the WA politicians who went on the WY pro-coal tour were not only from cities and counties along the railways on which the coal trains would travel, but more specifically from those communities likely to encounter some serious vehicle traffic delays due to at-grade rail crossings, with the huge increase in coal trains that would accompany the proposed coal terminals in WA.

If you look at the cities and counties of which the WA politicians are from, all of those are mentioned in the Sightline article series (6 part) entitled “How Oil and Coal Trains Will Block Traffic.” The Sightline article series analyzed various public at-grade rail crossings along the rail route to proposed coal terminals/ports and oil refineries/terminals, and showed how coal train (and oil train) traffic will close streets and disrupt vehicle traffic for hours daily.

Here are links to a few of the Sightline articles that should help people see the connections:

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Manifest Clandestine-y

Mon, Jul 07, 2014, 5:04 am  //  Guest writer

Guest 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

Sins of Omission

Fri, Jun 27, 2014, 9:01 pm  //  Guest writer

In 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

Village Books

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

Herald and Weekly Withhold the News

Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 11:39 am  //  John Servais

Wyoming 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

The Road to Perdition

Sun, Jun 01, 2014, 12:39 am  //  Guest writer

A Venn diagram where coal, the Endangered Species Act, Republicans, and Wyoming’s Board of Education collide.

2 comments; last on Jun 02, 2014

Feint, Calumny, Solidarity

Wed, May 28, 2014, 3:15 pm  //  Guest writer

A 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

Montana & Wyoming to WA: Permit Coal Export Terminals… Or Else

Thu, May 22, 2014, 12:10 am  //  Guest writer

Wyoming 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

An Imminent Threat

Fri, May 09, 2014, 6:10 am  //  Terry Wechsler

Why Washington must step in and assume lead agency status in Skagit County for the Shell crude by rail proposal.

6 comments; last on Jun 21, 2014

“Friends and Neighbors”?

Mon, Apr 21, 2014, 1:59 pm  //  Terry Wechsler

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

3 comments; last on Jun 25, 2014

Killer Industrial Jobs or Long-term Job Killers?

Sun, Apr 06, 2014, 12:52 pm  //  Terry Wechsler

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

5 comments; last on Jun 25, 2014

County Hires GPT Permit Lead as Senior Planner

Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 10:51 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, 3:22 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, 9:29 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, 5:48 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, 6:40 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

Fri, May 31, 2013, 12:01 am  //  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, 3:45 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, 7:19 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Links to a few noteworthy GPT scoping comments .

1 comments; last on Jan 23, 2013

Video of Mudslide Derailing Train Monday

Wed, Dec 19, 2012, 12:12 pm  //  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, 2:43 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, 9:53 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, 9:00 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, 9:30 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, 1:54 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, 1:06 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, 6:53 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, 3:08 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, 11:29 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, 10:24 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, 4:07 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, 10:37 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

Thu, Sep 01, 2011, 3:46 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, 11:11 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, 11:42 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, 2:09 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, 12:56 pm  //  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, 7:45 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, 5:32 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, 11:40 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, 5:00 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


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