Connecting the dots between several recent Herald articles about energy, transportation and agriculture I believe paints a bleak picture for Whatcom County’s future if the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal comes here.
First, we have the declining price of coal, which shows no sign of reversing and has already convinced many companies to shutter coal extraction and export operations. Second, we’ve gotten a peek at the local impacts of energy-dependent economies through stories of rampant workplace fatalities, uncleaned toxic spills, and increased violence around the North Dakota Bakken oil boom. Third, we have read of agricultural goods trapped at their point of origin or forced onto river barges due to increased shipping of fossil fuels by rail.
These facts seem to add up to a low-value, high-impact project that directly threatens other important industries with deep roots in Whatcom County. Estimates vary, but no one expects for the terminal to create much more than 100 new jobs. Surely community organizations, our elected leaders, and the businesses that do so well here could come together to create 100 new jobs in improving sustainable energy and energy efficiency throughout the county over the next 20 years. Such an initiative would enhance what is already great about the area while putting none of it at risk.