Friday, June 17, 2016

Oil train going through Bellingham. Who remembers the Northern Tier Pipeline proposal?

Unlike the coal trains that carry coal for export to Asia, I hear that the oil trains rumbling through Bellingham are serving the Pacific Northwest market. Bringing oil to our local refineries from places like North Dakota. Mostly for consumption in Seattle and various cities and towns of the Pacific Northwest. Keeping the cars on the road which, unfortunately, still rely on fossil fuel. In the past, much of our consumption was served by Alaskan oil, but more of today's oil is coming from North Dakota. It goes by train where there's no pipeline.

Ironically, old timers might remember the plans to build a pipeline from our refineries to North Dakota and points east. The proposal to build Northern Tier Pipeline back in late 1970s early 1980s. That pipeline was seen as a way to bring Alaskan oil from west coast ports to markets in the Midwest. If Northern Tier corridor was here today, it could be working in reverse. Bringing North Dakota oil to the west. Back in it's day, no one was thinking of sending the oil west. Since then, Alaskan oil has diminished and North Dakota production has flourished; like slash, burn and move on. Resource extraction patterns change over the years.

I remember my seatmate on a Greyhound Bus around 1981. He was a public relations person for Northern Tier. Full of stories about hiking, hunting and fishing. His spiel was about being an outdoor enthusiast and saying the pipeline wouldn't harm the environment. However, in 1983, Republican Governor John Spellman, of Washington State, rejected Northern Tier's application saying it would endanger the ecology of Puget Sound.

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