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Fourth World Eye Blog

Cole’s Coal

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In the interest of full disclosure, prior to my transition to Bay Area citizen, I was an environmental activist in the Salish Sea–an area that includes the San Juan Islands, midway between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia. As such, I came to know the Lummi Indians, as well as a corporate politico by the name of Craig Cole, who, at present, is a mouthpiece for international shipping companies hoping to transport coal from Cherry Point to China (through the Lummi salmon and crab fishing grounds), on behalf of Goldman Sachs and their subsidiary SSA Marine. While Cole and his Wall Street employers are entitled to their view, their inflammatory deceptions create unnecessary social discord.

During the salmon war between Salish Sea tribes and the State of Washington in the mid-1970s, I worked as an Alaska Fishermen’s Union salmon tender captain for New England Fish Company based in La Conner. My route was from there past the Anacortes San Juan Islands Ferry Landing to Friday Harbor, through Pole Pass skirting Orcas Island out to Stuart Island, then back to Griffin Bay and La Conner. This area is located in the center of the upper right map insert showing the American and Canadian shipping lanes. The NOAA chart for Boundary Pass (the route to Cherry Point between the Gulf Islands and San Juan Islands), provides a detailed description of hazards and aids to navigation.

Perhaps of interest to historians, in 1977, environmentalists working with then U.S. Senator Warren G. Magnuson of Washington, made supertankers off-limits to Puget Sound (now part of the recently-designated Salish Sea), requiring the permissible smaller oil tankers to have double hulls and tug escorts. Now, thirty-five years later, the proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point, which predicts 487 bulk carrier vessels per year, could circumvent those protections.

As Matt Krogh reported in the February 22, 2012 issue of Cascadia Weekly, these bulk carriers have the “worst safety record of any commercial vessels on the high seas.” To make matters worse, the bulk carriers — double the size of the oil tankers now allowed in the Salish Sea — are a mix of single and double hull, and exempt from requirements for tug escorts. Carrying 2 million gallons of bunker fuel each, these bulkers are a disaster waiting to happen. Even if they avoid grounding or collision, the loading and ballasting spells doom for the ecosystem of the Salish Sea.

For those who might be inclined, I left a comment on the San Francisco Chronicle article about Cherry Point coal shipping that hopefully clarifies the present conflict. As I remarked in my editorial at Intercontinental Cry, Wall Street’s attempt to pit indigenous peoples and environmentalists against organized labor and local governments hoping to cash in on the final wasting of the planet, is both disingenuous and inexcusable. Additional information about tribal interests and concerns can be found at the Coast Salish Gathering webpage on the transport and export of U.S. energy.
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