Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Army Corps of Engineers rejects second coal port north of Bellingham. First coal port is in Canada.

Coal train crossing Nooksack River in Ferndale on it's way back from making coal delivery at Robert's Bank. An already existing coal port just north of Canadian border.

Army Corps of Engineers has delivered what could be a fatal blow to the Gateway Pacific proposal to build a coal port north of Bellingham. The Corps ruled in favor of the Lummi Nation which feared that the port would interfere with their treaty fishing rights. Herald article.

Good news for environmentalists as there was lots of opposition to the coal port proposal. This opposition included concern about continuing to build up fossil fuel infrastructure in the face of the global warming situation.

It seemed like a bad idea economically as well. Due to global warming and other alternative fuels, such as solar power and less carbon intensive natural gas, coal use should be in decline. Even coal use in China. Unless a way can be found to sequester the carbon emissions, growth of fossil fuel consumption is problematic. As for coal facilities, we do already have a coal port in this region. It's just a few miles across the border in Canada.

Several years ago, it looked like coal consumption in Asia was increasing rapidly. There was fear, I'd guess, that the capacity of the Canadian coal port wouldn't be sufficient to handle all the demand for shipping; especially if it were to prioritize Canadian over US coal.

Also, I'd guess there was interest in building a US port to say it's in our country and someone would be making money. It was also thought of as a source of local jobs even though not that many permanent jobs would be created. It would have created some construction jobs. There were a few labor union groups that supported the idea as labor doesn't necessarily always side with environmentalist interests. Also not all labor supported it. Some labor groups felt it could be used as a bulk commodity port for agricultural products as coal might be seen as just a way to get it started. A way to pay for capital costs, but over the long haul other bulk commodities would be shipped. This was a way that certain labor leaders reconciled the problems with the project. I remember this idea coming up on a local radio talk show with one union official.

Also, it seems like a stretch to ship coal all the way from Wyoming and Montana, by rail, along such an indirect route. Through Spokane, then down to Portland, Oregon and then all they way back north through Seattle and so forth to this area to then be placed on ships for transport across the Pacific. Of course I realize that oil has been shipped long distance, like that, for years. Still, the energy economy is in for big changes. This second coal port north of Bellingham was a bad idea.

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