County Hires GPT Permit Lead as Senior PlannerPermalink +
Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 9:51 am // Riley Sweeney
Buckle yourself in, this one is going to be a doozy. The Whatcom County Planning Department has hired a planner who was previously in charge of the Gateway Pacific Terminal permitting. This potential conflict of interest was identified by David Stalheim, one of the writers of a local blog titled "Get Whatcom Planning".
Back in September 2013, the county executive hired Cliff Strong, who at the time was a land use planner with the City of Mukilteo. Strong was hired as a "Senior Planner" for the county in the natural resources department where he is responsible for long range planning, heading up the critical areas ordinance update, WRIA planning & coordination, and other duties as assigned.
However, he was already well-known within the planning department since he was the one handling (or not handling) permits for Gateway Pacific Terminal when they got caught illegally clearing land up at Cherry Point. At the time, Strong was working for AMEC Earth and Environmental, which was employed by Gateway Pacific Terminal. When they had to apply for retroactive permits for what they had done, Strong was the first name listed as the applicant (see page 6 here). On page 11 of this correspondence about the illegal clearing, the representative for the terminal refers to Strong as, "our planner on the Gateway Pacific Terminal project."
Clearly, Strong worked this issue previously, so I called Sam Ryan, director for the Planning Department to ask what Strong is currently working on. She said his main role is long range planning and he is currently working on the critical areas update. "He has not and will not work on anything having to do with the Terminal project." Jean Melious, Stalheim's partner-in-blog at Get Whatcom Planning, speculated that Strong could be appointed the county SEPA official, but Ryan was clear that Strong will not be working on anything involving that project.
I've filed a public record request to verify this is the current situation. The Whatcom County Code of Ethics does not prohibit hiring from former and/or current clients of the county. However, if Strong were to work on any issues relating to the terminal, there would be a serious case for appearance of fairness concerns.
Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 9:51 am // Riley SweeneyRiley digs into an unusual hiring decision at the County Planning Dept
1 comments; last on Mar 10, 2014
Sun, Mar 02, 2014, 2:22 pm // John ServaisThe 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
Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 8:29 pm // John ServaisThe full text of Craig Cole's threatening letter of libel against the Whatcom Watch. And the emptiness of the threat.
14 comments; last on Mar 04, 2014
Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 4:48 pm // John ServaisCraig Cole, the local contact for the proposed Cherry Point coal port has threatened the Whatcom Watch with a libel lawsuit.
5 comments; last on Mar 08, 2014
Wed, Oct 02, 2013, 5:40 am // Riley SweeneyRiley uncovers how the Coal Industry is funding conservative candidates in Whatcom County
11 comments; last on Oct 03, 2013
Thu, May 30, 2013, 11:01 pm // Guest writerJeffrey 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
Sun, May 05, 2013, 2:45 pm // John ServaisHelp fund a scientific study looking for links between diesel locomotives, coal trains and unhealthy air.
Tue, Jan 22, 2013, 6:19 pm // Wendy HarrisLinks to a few noteworthy GPT scoping comments .
1 comments; last on Jan 23, 2013
Wed, Dec 19, 2012, 11:12 am // John ServaisA 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
Sat, Dec 08, 2012, 1:43 pm // John ServaisA 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
Fri, Sep 21, 2012, 8:53 am // John ServaisBellingham 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
Mon, Aug 20, 2012, 8:00 am // Riley SweeneyRiley sits down with Matt Petryni with Power Past Coal to get the latest scoop
Thu, Aug 09, 2012, 8:30 pm // Larry HorowitzQuestions 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
Sun, Jul 15, 2012, 12:54 am // Tip JohnsonWherein we see the Railroad walking it's walk while we get ready to talk our talk.
1 comments; last on Jul 16, 2012
Sun, Jan 15, 2012, 12:06 am // Wendy HarrisPlanning Commissioner Onkels should recuse himself from review of environmental impacts at GPT.
3 comments; last on Feb 08, 2012
Sun, Dec 04, 2011, 5:53 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein the sooty prospect of economic necessity rears its ugly head
2 comments; last on Dec 05, 2011
Fri, Dec 02, 2011, 2:08 pm // Wendy HarrisPlanning Staff's recommended revision will not prevent SSA from reducing wetland buffers.
Tue, Nov 22, 2011, 10:29 pm // Wendy HarrisThe 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
Sat, Nov 19, 2011, 9:24 pm // Paul deArmondLooking at the numbers for the Bellingham elections
11 comments; last on Nov 22, 2011
Mon, Oct 31, 2011, 3:07 pm // Guest writerBob Ferris of Re-Sources takes a values based perspective on our community and a possible coal port.
9 comments; last on Nov 02, 2011
Thu, Sep 08, 2011, 9:37 am // Riley SweeneyLook at the title, it spells it out.
6 comments; last on Sep 12, 2011
Thu, Sep 01, 2011, 2:46 pm // John ServaisGeorge 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
Fri, Jul 29, 2011, 10:11 am // John ServaisThe Gateway Pacific coal port appears to be under construction now - secretly and w/o permits.
36 comments; last on Aug 05, 2011
Mon, Jun 20, 2011, 10:42 am // Tip JohnsonWherein something smells a bit fishy
2 comments; last on Jul 29, 2011
Wed, Jun 08, 2011, 1:09 pm // John ServaisWho 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
Fri, Jun 03, 2011, 11:56 am // John ServaisA 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
Thu, Jun 02, 2011, 6:45 pm // John ServaisThe 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
Wed, Jun 01, 2011, 4:32 pm // Guest writerGuest writer Mark Flanders' call to action for June 1 flash mob at coal port meeting
7 comments; last on Jun 09, 2011
Mon, May 30, 2011, 10:40 pm // Tip JohnsonWherein blackened hearts and minds are initially examined
6 comments; last on Jun 02, 2011
Fri, Mar 25, 2011, 4:00 am // John ServaisCoal 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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