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Take a breath and think about impacts crude by oil could bring

I feel fortunate to be meeting with an attorney, who has agreed to donate a one-hour consultation regarding the “crude oil by rail” expansion proposed by Westway at the Port of Grays Harbor, Terminal No. 1. Citizens are at a bit of a disadvantage here. Thanks to the attorney and and sincere thanks to Citizens for a Clean Harbor, who have held informational meetings around this county for all citizens—because they care about all aspects of quality of life in Grays Harbor County. They care about all of Grays Harbor including our towns, our jobs, our lands, our waters, our fishing industry, our natural habitats and our human health issues, for now and for all of the future.

This 35-page application for expanded oil storage at the Port of Grays Harbor is the first and I believe the smallest, of the three companies with proposals. That’s a challenge.

From a more personal perspective, as an average citizen, I am less hopeful when I suddenly realize that government agencies are helping Westway, Imperium and U.S Development Ltd. to write their own rules, file their applications to escape a full environmental review and to reassure us all of three things: 1. Nothing bad is going to happen. 2. We are safe. 3. We should all stand back, stop asking questions and let them proceed because they know what is best for Grays Harbor. HA! And there’s no need for any of us to act like radical environmentalists because we all know protests just make people look silly. Some think that people fighting to save our Harbor, stop crude by rail are responsible for keeping many from getting some non existent jobs that the Port dangles on a string. It doesn’t feel like we, “The Citizens…” are being fully represented. The government agencies aren’t speaking to, or helping us interpret or question these most confusing and technical documents. How on earth can it be legal to store that much oil directly on the shore of the Chehalis River in tidal water and a sensitive diverse estuary of wildlife, fisherman, ducks, birds? We can’t even move a log which may contribute flooding in front of our house on the Chehalis River!

After reading Tom Frederiksen’s article in The Vidette, following the informational meeting in Elma on March 27, I took time for a pause in this battle. I do not understand why all the people of Grays Harbor don’t jump on board and fight the good fight for this mess—together. Make some noise? Where are the people who live along the Chehalis River?

In Elma the businesses and people on the wrong side of the tracks will be seriously polluted, inconvenienced and troubled on a daily basis. Oakville, too. Montesano — where were you? As Tom noted, the Governor’s Office was silent, the county commissioners are absent, city officials not present, our representatives seem unresponsive, not weighing in one way or another. They were sure there posting up the Tsunami Warning signs which will most likely be buried in oil when we suffer the high tides, high winds & high rains in our tidal, one of a kind estuary at the mouth of the Chehalis River. The Port of Grays Harbor will shortly be taken over primarily for oil storage and shipping, millions of gallons, if the city of Hoquiam, The Port of Grays Harbor, Port Commissioners & its CEO, Gary Nelson, have their way.

Grays Harbor knows the outcome of this impending disaster—and again, much money will be made for the petroleum industry, Our “Citizens’ “asking questions approach” thus far, may have proven to be too narrow? What else can we do with limited resources besides gather the troops, ask questions and inform ourselves? Most of the meetings & sharing of information have been civil and genuine. Posing questions about ethics, quality of life, increased rail traffic, environmental health, citizen & business convenience, the direction the Port is taking Grays Harbor— and what are other possible more healthful exports than crude oil?

It is telling that Gary Nelson, our Port CEO, back on Jan. 11, 2013, preceding the public meeting at the Log Cabin Pavillion in Aberdeen promised: “At that time, there will be ample opportunity to ask questions,” telling a concerned citizen he did not know the answer to the question posed about rail traffic. The main problem here, Mr. Nelson, is we asked the questions, and have continued asking the questions — but the answers are not forthcoming. You turn us over to the foxes in the hen house: Westway, Imperium, U.S Development, City of Hoquiam and Dept of Ecology but we have to keep asking. From a citizen’s perspective, this has been a huge learning curve — and keeps getting bigger as I wade through the first of three applications by the first of three companies wanting to turn Grays Harbor into an oil storage and shipping facility. Whew! Still searching for answers. Think about it.

Carol Seaman