Petitions are starting to circulate around town to put something called the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights on the ballot.
If passed, this measure would allow the city to have some say about what is transported through city limits. This issue comes up in regards to the coal trains that travel through Bellingham on their way from coal fields in Wyoming and other places to a coal port in Canada and (most importantly) a proposed port just north of Bellingham.
It's kind of a legal experiment to see if local jurisdictions can regulate the flow of interstate commerce that happen to go through their borders.
Can this be done or does it violate powerful interstate commerce laws and precedence?
Proponents of the measure provide some examples of other cities that have regulated various forms of commerce within their borders. Cities banning the use of fracking for natural gas or factory farming are given as examples. These are things being produced, or mined within a city. Cities often do regulate things like mining within their borders.
Here's what seems to be missing.
None of the examples, I have heard so far, involve something just passing through a city on it's way from point A to Point B. Can this form of interstate commerce be controlled by each location along the way?
Could that bring us back to the days of trolls under the bridge blocking commerce? On the other hand, should the free flow of commerce and the obvious derivative being multi-national corporations always rule the day?
It will be interesting to see how this issue plays out both at the ballot box and in the courtrooms where it will, most likely, be discussed.
I, at least, signed the petition so it could be on the ballot and start the discussion. Could bring some interesting attention to Bellingham. I'm not sure exactly how I would feel about localities regulating interstate commerce. There are pros and cons, but the discussion of these matters will prove to be interesting. Part of the free flow of ideas, at least.
More information on the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights is available on the Coal Free Bellingham web site.
Another strategy that people who oppose the coal trains are using involves the permitting process with county government and state department of ecology about the proposed coal port north of Bellingham.