We support every effort to transition to cleaner, renewable energy sources, although the use of coal to keep our lights on, even right here in Whatcom County let alone in the developing world, is a fact we'll have to deal with for years to come.
A key truth that drives us is, if we don't ship it, someone else most certainly will. British Columbia's government is already gearing up to significantly expand its coal exporting capacity at four different ports. These ports are investing more than $400 million to increase their coal exporting capacity up to almost 80 million metric tons per year. Coal is already B.C.'s No. 1 export, and it's clear they want it to stay that way.
Trains carrying coal have been moving through Whatcom County on their way to Canadian ports for years. This activity will continue to increase as British Columbia capitalizes on the commodity that many in our community refuse to accept as a necessity.
Gov. Gregoire was very clear-headed about it when she stated during a visit to Bellingham, "Let there be no mistake, Wyoming and Montana are going to extract their coal and they're going to export it. The question is, does it go through Canada or does it go through Washington?"
So our question for our community is very similar - do we want to benefit from the jobs and tax revenues created by coal exports? Or continue to let them pass us by?
For many in the community, capturing these local jobs is necessary to keep many Whatcom County families together. For years, longshoremen have been forced to travel outside of the county for work, and we greatly dislike passing this unfortunate tradition to our children. Many families and college students are leaving Whatcom County to find jobs because there aren't enough here to sustain us. This is a sad truth, but we don't have to keep accepting it.
The Gateway Pacific Terminal can meet all our environmental standards, so we can have the opportunity to create thousands of high-skilled jobs in our community, while protecting the environment. The company behind the Gateway project, Seattle-based SSA Marine, has committed to a locals-first hiring policy, which means a better economic future for our children and grandchildren.
Our members want the opportunity to work and give back to the community they live in and the Gateway Pacific Terminal gives us this opportunity. Let's support this project.
Leroy Rohde and Darren Williams both live in Bellingham and are longshoremen with International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 7.