SSA Marine's mantra of "good jobs now" needs scrutiny. China's demand for coal is historically volatile. Coal ships in China's harbors can't get permission to unload. Coal export terminals in both Portland and Los Angeles failed when the promised tax revenues and jobs from coal exports evaporated. Taxpayers had to foot the bill for millions of dollars. Coal companies worry about their profits and China's interest in importing U.S. natural gas fracking technology.
The cost of failure at Gateway Pacific Terminal would be borne by our community. The cost of cleaning up the pollution and retrofitting GPT would cost taxpayers unprecedented millions. SSA Marine promises 89 jobs in 2015 and 260 jobs by 2026. Looking at these figures in context means that direct employment in Whatcom County would be increased by 1/10th of 1 percent by 2026. How many jobs in the fishing and tourist industries would be lost? Not a very good strategy for job creation. It is also alarming that SSA Marine formed a subsidiary, Pacific International Terminals, to build GPT, following Peabody Energy's example with coal miners, PIT could declare bankruptcy and dissolve all the health and other pension benefits of workers.
We have choices here. Redevelop Bellingham's port (about 1,000 jobs) vs. a coal terminal (280 jobs max.) Coal export is a dirty, risky business. There are better uses for this land.