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Grays Harbor says “NO!”

On April 24th, the City of Hoquiam and the Department of Ecology held a “scoping” hearing in Hoquiam High School on two of the three proposed oil terminals for storing and shipping North Dakota Bakken oil. About 100 people attended. Forty people gave two minute talks. No one spoke for the proposed terminals.

The scoping process itself.   People wanted an evaluation of how the City of Hoquiam and the Department of Ecology could have made a judgment of non-significance and issued permits. As one person said, “You ask us to be respectful in this hearing, but you have shown us no respect.”

Treaty rights violations. Fawn R. Sharp, President of the Quinault Nation, stated the Quinault Nation opposes these oil terminals and wants the EIS to assess violations of treaty rights guaranteeing tribal access to natural resources.

Examine fisheries. People want an assessment of financial damage to razor clam beaches, the dungeness crab harvest, oyster beds and the Chehalis Basin. The proposal was called “a shortsighted vision with long term costs, ” and  “a response plan for something you can not clean up.”  One asked why spend  $100 million cleaning up the Chehalis Basin when “one spill and the fish are gone.”

Question assumptions. Ecology shouldn’t use an “improved spill response plan” to justify the massive increase in oil trains. Zoltan Grossman said this would be like answering parents concerned about fire when a cigarette  company passed out lighters to their school children by telling them it will be alright because there will be a new burn unit in the local hospital. He advocated the precautionary principle: Don’t build it. Deny the permit.

The ecology of crude.   People wanted an assessment of the accumulative effect of all three proposed oil terminals, the entire extraction, transportation, storage and marine transport of the Bakken crude and its effects on congestion, air pollution and emissions in all communities it passes through.

Assessment of the railroad infrastructure. People pointed to the deteriorating railroad bridges, the old ties, landslides and derailments. One derailment happened as the train was standing still when rain washed out the underpinnings of the track.

Hemispheric resource. Grays Harbor is a hemispheric resource for birds. One person talked about the 1000s of birds killed in the late 80s. She asked that they “think about our birds and protect them.”

Who will pay for the spill? Pointing to previous spills and the difficulty of clean up, people wanted an assessment of the costs and an analysis of who will pay.

Assessment of petroleum fires. One person said one oil explosion and kids in this school “would to blown to kingdom come.” Another said,  “You need a certain kind of foam to fight an oil fire.” They wanted to know all the schoolkids in danger and a complete assessment of resources for oil fires.

Harbor navigation assessment.  People said the entrance to Grays Harbor is the second most dangerous on the West Coast, yet Panamex tankers and articulated barges would be used to export the oil. They wanted an assessment of existing marine traffic and the added congestion.

Assessment of health effects.  People said an environmental disaster leads to trauma, that Grays Harbor county has the second highest cancer rate of Washington counties and that emergency vehicles are on one side of the tracks and dying people on the other.

A cultural resource. A person near the end of the hearing asked how do you value a cultural resource?  We are in danger of losing it, she said, something of infinite value for something of a finite value.

Dan Leahy is a Westside resident and proud member of the Decatur Raiders.


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