Local residents speak out on SSA project

Published on Thu, Mar 17, 2011 by By Jeremy Schwartz

Read More News

A recent addition to Tuesday’s county council meeting agenda calling for a resolution in support of the proposed Gateway Pacific terminal was abruptly pulled on the advice of the county’s attorney.

Nevertheless, a sizable number of supporters and opponents took advantage of the open question period to say how they felt about the terminal.

Council chairman Sam Crawford said the resolution, which council member Tony Larson put forward, was pulled from the agenda on the recommendation of county prosecuting attorney Karen Frakes. Frakes explained to Crawford that the council cannot officially support the proposed terminal since it is one of the permitting bodies.

Members of Bellingham Local 276, a laborers’ union, turned out en masse to support the terminal and filled the first two rows of the county council chambers. About half spoke in support of the jobs the terminal will bring, while a few expressed concerns that the permitting process might be delayed too long.

“How long is SSA going to keep trying to put this port here before they give up and walk away?” one union member asked.
About an equal number of speakers during the meeting’s open session expressed concerns about the harmful environmental effects the terminal could bring to the county. Almost every time an opponent of the terminal spoke, a member of local 276 would line up to offer a statement in support.

Opponents’ concerns focused on coal, one of the main commodities SSA has said the terminal will handle. SSA recently signed a contract with Peabody Energy to ship 24 million tons of coal per year through the proposed facility.

Matt Krogh, North Sound baykeeper with Bellingham-based Re Sources for Sustainable Communities, said they would be hosting a field trip to the Roberts Bank coal terminal in British Columbia; a trip he encouraged the council members to attend.