Four progressives won seats this month on the council in Whatcom County, where coal interests have ambitions to put a $600 million international terminal whose exports would add 86.7 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere.
The candidates’ victory makes construction of the Gateway Pacific Terminal, which if permitted would export almost 50 million tons of coal per year from the site 20 miles north of Bellingham, Wash., less likely. The project requires multiple permits from state and federal agencies, but the seven-member Whatcom County Council also has to grant one.
Four council seats were on November’s ballot. When I was in Bellingham in September, reporting on the coal terminal, several environmental activists I talked [to] predicted a flood of corporate contributions that would support a pro-coal council slate.
… An environmental coalition, working through the Washington Conservation Voters Action Fund, raised $621,000. The pro-terminal Save Whatcom PAC raised $165,000, mostly from coal interests.
And all four progressive candidates won, which doesn’t seal the fate of the Gateway terminal but makes its passage less likely.
… Environmental advocacy groups are aren’t closing up shop in Whatcom County yet. But there is a bigger story. Whatcom County was one episode in a regional export terminal blockade in a region that Bullitt Foundation President Denis Hayes has referred to as “Cascadia”—the Northwest corner of the United States and British Columbia, where citizens and elected officials have dedicated themselves to the defense of the environment.
The fight now moves south to the Morrow Pacific terminal on the Columbia River in Oregon. Already Portland neighborhoods are studded with “Gov. Kitzhaber: Save us from Dirty Coal” yards signs.
The smart money has chastened coal interests cranking up their spending, as their prospects for moving Western coal out of Pacific Northwestern ports are diminished.