The main reason I’m running for port commissioner is that there is a fundamental difference between the existing Commissioner and myself. Oil does not belong in Grays Harbor.
Grays Harbor is a closed bay and one oil spill, one major accident and the livelihood of the communities associated with fisheries, shellfish, tourism, recreation and existing port functions would be in jeopardy.
Our communities do not need an intensification of railroad traffic on the existing lines. The 133 percent increase in rail traffic would be detrimental to the communities of Elma and Montesano as well as businesses in Aberdeen and Hoquiam. Options need to be explored for upgrades and bypasses that will not jeopardize businesses and people’s lives. The railroad bridge infrastructure is in need of major improvements. Millions of dollars would need to be spent — who will pay for these improvements? The carrying capacity of the Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad is a limiting factor; we do not need a mono-culture business that will use up all the rail capacity. We have already seen what can happen when the Harbor relies too heavily on a single industry.
This is not about permitting this is about common sense.
On May 31, my wife and I attended Congressman Derek Kilmer’s town hall meeting at the Rotary Log Pavilion in Aberdeen. Some of the topics discussed were sequester impacts, concerns about jobs, and health care issues regarding Obamacare. Different issues surrounded each one of these main topics. However, the question of interest was asked by a concerned citizen regarding crude oil in Grays Harbor. Kilmer’s response was typical of a politician. He defaulted to the permitting agencies. Essentially, if the permitting agencies permit the oil export facilities then he is OK with it. Congressman Kilmer, this is not about permitting this is about commonsense.
There are several permitted activities that have gone terribly wrong in the recent past. Some include the following; BP’s Deepwater Horizon blowout, a permitted activity killing 11 people and releasing 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The Piper Alpha disaster killed 167 workers. The Kalamazoo River incident in 2010 released 840,000 gallons of crude oil, it’s estimated to cost $800 million to clean up. Fourteen spills have occurred along the existing Keystone pipeline since 2010. An oil train derailed in western Minnesota spilling 30,000 gallons of crude. The Exxon Mobil pipeline ruptured in the small town of Mayflower, Arkansas spilling an estimated 84,000 gallons of heavy bitman crude oil causing the evacuation of 22 homes. In May of 2013, a derailment in southeastern Saskatchewan spilled 575 barrels of Canadian crude oil into a relatively remote area. This spill had been preceded by two other spills over a three-month period. As you can see, accidents do occur. Incidents like these occur due to mismanagement, incremental regulatory changes and limited resources, which leave inspections to industry. The push for profit at the expense of safety and the environment are not needed here in Grays Harbor.
Jobs for jobs sake—come on! Grays Harbor would gain about 75 jobs to build the facilities. This number would likely reduce to around 25 jobs when the terminals are complete. If an accident occurs, such as a ship running aground on the Westport jetty, spilling millions of gallons of oil; it would affect thousands of jobs, cause millions of dollars in damages, and result in a legacy changing Grays Harbor for decades. Sorry, it’s not worth the cost. Stop this nonsense and look for clean alternatives that will bring long term economic growth and a healthy lifestyle to the Harbor.
Grays Harbor is a special place that blends economics and the environment together. Without one, you cannot have the other. It is that vision I bring to this election. The Port has done well over the last few years due to support from state government and local leadership which has solidified opportunities for diversification; Satsop Business Park and Bowerman Field add their own unique opportunities as well. We need to continue this drive but we must be selective with how we want to grow. By exporting and importing items that are sustainable we will build strong communities. We need to bring in additional long-term jobs however; these jobs need to come from cutting edge technology, finished wood products, wine, fish, shellfish, cranberries, other forest products, cars, biodiesel, and grain while prioritizing tourism. Most of all, we want to work in a direction that is sustaining and gives us a healthy environment to raise our families, make a living, and retire.
Ron Figlar-Barnes of Elma is a candidate for Port Commissioner running against incumbent Chuck Caldwell. The Vidette has invited Commissioner Caldwell to submit a column to be printed in a future issue of The Vidette, as well.