Letters to the editor: January 23-29, 2014

Published on Wed, Jan 22, 2014
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The Editor:
January 13 was the closing date for comment regarding approval of the Revised Draft of the Phillips 66 Ferndale (oil) Refinery National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit (NPDES). I am concerned as to how the permit relates to the Cherry Point BP refinery as well as Phillips 66. Past permits have been focused on marine transportation and transfer of crude oil from Alaska. Recent shipments of oil by rail from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota present a new set of potential impacts on our local environment.
There is a chemical difference in the two oil products due to hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” procedures versus North Slope drilling techniques. Fracking requires chemical additives using formulas that are proprietary and not disclosed to the public. Those chemical additives are transported with the oil and dealt with at the refinery. The unrefined Bakken oil is twice as flammable as North Slope crude, as seen in recent train derailments.
A new railroad spur brings Bakken oil trains to the Birch Bay BP refinery. The regulations on marine and rail transport of oil as set forth by the EPA and the Washington State Department of Ecology are to provide protection from the possible harm of spills, air pollution or explosion. It is the job of federal and state regulators to protect the rest of us from accident or neglect. In the new era of oil transportation and refinement the old rules are not enough. No matter how carefully a corporation designs procedures, pipelines, ships, tanks and trains, accidents will continue to plague us.
The flames of the last BP refinery fire, February 17, 2012, were seen from Birch Bay. A future accident could involve about 8,500 people in winter to as many as 24,000 in the summer. Is there an emergency plan? This is a resort area dependent on clean water, clean beaches, abundant salmon, fishing, crabbing, clamming and the activities for which western Washington is famous.
Please contact state senator Doug Ericksen and express your concern for the future safety and prosperity of Birch Bay. Insist that he support Washington Department of Ecology efforts on our 
behalf.
Alice Brown
Birch Bay

The Editor:
Every once in a while, government makes a brilliant decision. Funding programs to reduce homelessness with document fees (like during real estate transactions) is one example. In Bellingham, document fees have effectively reduced homelessness 34 percent, and among veterans, 60 percent. Something good is happening here!
Why should our fully employed, graduate-degreed family care about homelessness? We became a statistic when our daughter was diagnosed with  stage four cancer. Her two young adult sons living with her could not provide the intense personal care she needed. We moved in with her, and they moved out. We helped one get his credit rating clean, so he moved to an apartment. His brother, hit hard by his mother’s diagnosis, turned back to drugs to deal with his trauma. We tried various agencies in Boise to get help, but he was not ready for a sober house. Now, we have a homeless grandson – one we pray for every day.
The document fee legislation is due to be phased out in the next two years. People like you and me can benefit should the unspeakable ever hit your family as it did ours. Reducing homelessness in general is to the benefit of the middle j9
class – safer, prettier streets.
Olympia, stop the sunset of document fees, because they work; they reduce homelessness!
Kathleen Langdon
Bellingham

The Editor:
I recently learned a staggering figure: the short-term savings to our county for providing housing for each chronically homeless person is $5,000 per year. Providing good care to the homeless costs about $11,000 in case management, employment services, rent subsidies, etc. But homeless folks not provided assistance cost the county $16,000 in health care, emergency room visits, jail 
terms, etc. 
Since 2008, homelessness has decreased by 30 percent. We can and should do even better. But the primary funding source that makes this possible is scheduled to sunset soon. Our state legislators need to protect this funding now, during this short session in 
Olympia. 
With this funding preserved, we can help more homeless individuals – this is cost effective for our county. Establishing a centrally coordinated system where results are tracked and plans adjusted based on outcome has optimized our efforts in ending homelessness. 
Ending homelessness is about more than savings; in the long term the increased wellbeing of our community can only be attained from caring for each other. Thank you!
Nancy Orlowski
Bellingham

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