Last July 6, 2014, Olympia Port Commissioner George Barner spoke to Grays Harbor citizens and members of the Quinault Nation—at Zelasko Park in Aberdeen. On that same summer day, as Grays Harbor honored and recognized 47 victims of the Lac Megantic, Quebec, crude oil explosion, Mr. Barner spoke to the crowd, recognizing the dangers posed to all of us by the current “crude by rail” proposals through our communities, our state—our Washington Ports. On that same day Mr. Barner noted both Olympia’s, and Grays Harbor Citizens’ concerns for their “safety, health and well being” with three crude oil proposals at The Port of Grays Harbor (Westway, Imperium, U.S Development/Grays Harbor Terminal).
Furthermore, Mr. Barner, Port Commissioner from Olympia, promised to take our concerns, his as well, tothe WPPA (Washington Public Ports Association) for discussion and consideration of the many dangers posed to all of our communities by these proposals. Mr. Barner, from Olympia was taking us to the higher power of “Ports” in Washington? I remember thinking, “Finally, surely, something will be done–now someone is listening.” If our Port Commissioners here in Grays Harbor won’t listen—we take what we get.
None of the three Port Commissioners from Grays Harbor were at this event, either to explain the logic of this crude oil or to show their concern. To date, the Port of Grays Harbor has not explained to us, in the blast zone, exactly how railing 110 trains a month through our communities and exporting 2.7 billion gallons of explosive crude from our Harbor—causing a 383% increase in vessel traffic—in a tidal, tsunami and earthquake liquification zone is good for us. For the most part all Port Commissioners, including our Executive Director, Gary Nelson, have been glaringly absent from public information events & forums concerning the three crude oil proposals at Grays Harbor. Therefore, a reasonable person can assume they are not concerned with community concerns.
It wasn’t until last Tuesday (10/21) when the Daily World came out with their front page story,”Censured Port of Olympia duo bites back”, that we knew George Barner meant what he said! As he said, he did speak up, along with a fellow Port Commissioner of Olympia, criticizing the three oil proposals, the Port of Grays Harbor and the City of Hoquiam. It’s about time that one of the 75 ports in the WPPA speaks out against the offenses to another community’s well-being, but then to be censured! Shameful. It shows exactly where the power is in Ports in Washington—it ain’t a pretty picture and it ain’t the power of the people!
However, again, it is bitter sweet–our small moment of believing someone out there actually cares that we, the people, are forced to turn our port and our communities, our safety, our way of life, over to crude oil. Gary Nelson has explained to us that it is “legal.” He is acting legally, therefore he shouldn’t be criticized—or questioned. Still, In the words of the WPPA, ports are also assigned to “make whatever decisions that are in the best interests of their communities.”
That is the part not yet explained to citizens of Grays Harbor by WPPA, or by their own Port. We still don’t understand how thousands of gallons of oil tank storage and shippping at a terminal across the street from a wildlife refuge is good for the community? We know it’s legal, but how did that happen “in the best interest of the community?” Mr. Nelson, Grays Harbor Port Executive forgot that part.
Carol Seaman is a concerned Grays Harbor citizen living on the Chehalis River.