August 22, 2013
Labor and business present a united front on bulk commodity terminals

Noting that it's "kind of interesting when the labor guy is standing up with a big industrialist" like Murray Pacific's Toby Murray, Mark Martinez of the Pierce County Building and Construction Trades Council said today that the pair were united over one issue: jobs. Noting that they're "not quite seeing the upturn" that some industries are in the slow economic recovery, construction unions are looking for new projects "to get our folks back to work," including proposals for bulk commodity terminals in Washington that would export coal for the Chinese market.

By Martinez's estimates, the proposed Millenium terminal project in Longview would require $600 million in construction activity and put "about 2,600 of my union brothers and sisters to work on that facility, along with the Gateway project up at Cherry Point." With about 15% of his members unemployed or underemployed, those numbers are nothing to sneeze at. Calling the projects "extremely important to us," he said of their support, "it's all about jobs."


Mike Elliott of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Toby Murray of Murray Pacific, and Mark Martinez of the Pierce County Building and Construction Trades Council.

Also flanking Murray, the very personification of the blue-blazered Chamber of Commerce type, at the Tacoma press conference was Mike Elliott of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen union. "Our members want to continue to haul freight in Washington State," Elliott said, and are supporting the Millenium and Gateway Pacific projects.

"We felt like the builders of those projects have gone about it in the right way. They've taken a conservation approach. We need to have industry and industry opportunities in Washington State, and we feel like these two projects in particular will do exactly that," Elliott said. Striking a note of labor solidarity, he added, "As far as our comrades in the other crafts, we support them as well. The ILWU will have jobs in both locations," as will the unionized construction workers Martinez represents.

Gov. Jay Inslee's Ecology Department has cast a skeptical eye on bulk commodity terminal projects, choosing unprecedentedly broad environmental impact study (EIS) criteria that will assess not just the impacts of construction, operation, and increased rail traffic, but the global effects of the coal's use in China. While declining to say anything negative about presumed political opponents to the projects such as Inslee or Seattle mayor Mike McGinn, the trio did note the inevitability of that coal making it to China.

Citing a recent trip to inspect Canadian export facilities, Elliott warned, "Let there be no mistake about it, they're gearing up to ship coal. If we don't ship it, they're going to ship it." Murray chimed in, "The coal is going to get to China one way or another, it's just a matter of who's going to haul it and what ports is it going to be delivered to and through?" Given that, the key question to Murray is, "Why not us?"

Murray and Elliott both struck an optimistic tone regarding their dealings with Inslee's Ecology Department, saying they can work through the EIS process to get their points across. As someone with a timber background who dealt with government agencies often, Murray said he is confident that "there's a lot of good people down in the Department of Ecology and at the Department of Natural Resources who we can sit down [with] and have an orderly process and work through any environmental problems to mutual satisfaction. So I think that any real issues along those lines can be resolved."

Elliott said that, while he "doesn't agree with Inslee on every point," he respects the governor and the process. "Going forward, the EIS process is a vetting process. There's an opportunity for the public to speak. There's an opportunity to evaluate thoroughly the pros and cons of these projects." He still has concerns about the broad scope of the EIS, though. "At the same time, you don't want to see the bar raised so high that we could never have another construction project of this magnitude in Washington State."

Posted by Adam Faber at August 22, 2013 04:49 PM | Email This
Comments
1. I work on the north end of the Seattle waterfront where these coal trains go by every day as it is. Never once have I seen or breathed this mysterious "coal dust" that seems to be the chief complaint in Seattle's war on coal. Why? Because the train cars have a thin layer of what is basically children's glue over the coal so they don't loose finite amounts of cargo during transport. I have even gone so far as to inspect the area around the tracks to see if there has been any reminiscent of coal dust and have never found anything.

Due to strong unions at every waterfront terminal in Washington state, coal terminals will no doubt bring many [very] high paying, family wage jobs to the area. As union rep Mike Elliott said, if they don't ship it out of Washington, they'll ship it out of Canada. The liberals better be careful when going against waterfront unions.

Posted by: Drew S. on August 22, 2013 05:19 PM
2. This is Adam's third or fourth try to drive a wedge between labor and environmentalists on this issue, and he has yet to mention another, key group in this story: the Lummi nation:

The Bellingham Herald reported on August 1 that a firm stance against the project "could stop the federal permit process for the coal terminal dead in its tracks." Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have said that if the tribe were to state in writing that there is no chance for an agreement with the company, SSA Marine, the federal agency would take that into account when evaluating federal permit applications.

(And, Adam tiresomely cites, yet again, a fact-free opinion rant at Washington Wire as if it was some kind of authority on this matter. Please.)

As for the supposed inevitability of shipping coal to China, that sits rather oddly with the right's oft-repeated claim that environmental regulations stifle commerce. Do they or don't they?

Posted by: tensor on August 22, 2013 05:30 PM
3. @2, even if you were right that the Lummis could kill the Cherry Point project at their discretion, that still leaves the Longview project on the table.
On the inevitability of the coal being exported, it's inevitable because the Canadians are more than happy to do it instead. Washington State's environmental regulations won't have a damn thing to do with it.

Posted by: Uhh... on August 22, 2013 10:28 PM
4. My concern is the train traffic...those coal trains are long and even a few more through cities all along the route could be problematic for residents, businesses, public safety, etc. stuck waiting for yet another train.

Posted by: kb on August 22, 2013 10:33 PM
5. "On the inevitability of the coal being exported, it's inevitable because the Canadians are more than happy to do it instead. Washington State's environmental regulations won't have a damn thing to do with it."

Adam (and you) simply accept, at face value, without the slightest trace of skepticism, these self-serving statements from persons with financial stakes in building these projects. Behind these claims lies the assumption that Canadian environmental regulations are weaker than those in Washington state. You can't simply assume what you need to prove.

Posted by: tensor on August 23, 2013 07:07 AM
6. Prince Rupert, Neptune, and Westshore in B.C. are expanding right now, Tensor, with an ability to handle 20 million tons more than their previous capacity. It's not theoretical.

Posted by: Uhh... on August 23, 2013 09:48 AM
7. There's a new mine at Tumbler, justifying (to the Canadians at least) the expansion of their bulk commodities shipping capacity for coal. Prior to that new mine, the Prince Rupert terminal was operating at a loss, requiring huge government subsidies to stay open. Is that a great business model to follow?

Still unexplained is why it's a good idea to have our government competing with a neighboring government to subsidize a bulk-export economy, traditionally the lowest margin business. Supporting value-adding products would make more sense.

If we want more construction jobs, how about building a new Columbia River Crossing? I'm sure Adam and the Republicans would get behind that, right? Oh, wait...

Posted by: tensor on August 23, 2013 11:50 AM
8. @6 Uhh... on August 23, 2013 09:48 AM,

You know what else they have in British Columbia, Canada? Government run health care; health care that is better and cheaper than whatever you've got. just saying.

Posted by: MikeBoyScout on August 23, 2013 12:57 PM
9. @7, "the Prince Rupert terminal was operating at a loss"

"Was" operating at a loss. Now it's making money hand over fist, and if Montana coal were to be shipped through it too, they'd really be rolling in it.

@8, and that has to do with what? Probably why people don't like commenting on here, you seem 6 guys get off topic quickly and argue about the same old crap. "Obamacare, socialism, guns, nah nah nah and blah blah blah."

Posted by: Uh... on August 23, 2013 05:53 PM
10. This article points out that the coal will make it to China one way or another, why not the one way be Washington State and provide much needed jobs, totally agree.
What I find interesting is Inslee's perspective;
Inslee is a strong supporter of burning wood in Seattle to produce steam. The steam company along with strong lobbying efforts and financial contributions have Inslee convinced that burning waste wood is "biomass" and thus is considered green house gas neutral. Seattle on the other hand is providing financial support to the steam company, a private company, using stimulus money,
aka our taxes and local tax money, both only going to support one private company.
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Posted by: tgraham052 on August 24, 2013 09:12 AM
11. "Was" operating at a loss. Now it's making money hand over fist, and if Montana coal were to be shipped through it too, they'd really be rolling in it.

And so all of those years of losses, requiring constant governmental subsidy to keep operating, just magically do not matter, because the current good times will never ever go away. (And you people actually get bitter because we don't allow you to make policy. Amazing.)

"@8, and that has to do with what? "

Governmental policy in Canada -- the very thing you were just extolling as superior to Washington state's governmental policy, remember?

"Probably why people don't like commenting on here, you seem 6 guys get off topic quickly..."

I can think of another reason, more obvious and certainly more verifiable, as to why people no longer comment on Jim Miller's posts.

Posted by: tensor on August 24, 2013 12:56 PM
12. I would support these terminals if the traffic and noise impacts can be adequately addressed. A long coal train lowering crossing gates in the Seattle metro area every few minutes is unacceptable. Coal trains rumbling on tracks adjacent to residential neighborhoods at all hours of day and night are unacceptable. The trains really need to be routed around Seattle, not through it, and if that isn't feasible then Cherry Point isn't viable. The economic benefits of selling coal to China aren't worth making Seattle's already bad traffic congestion much worse, or destroying the quality of life for tens of thousands of families.

Posted by: Roger Rabbit on August 24, 2013 09:27 PM
13. Why is useless babble about jersey's allowed on this web site.
Do what the Seattle Times does, when they don't like what you write, if it doesn't meet the main stream liberal New World Order lies, they eliminate the comment by indicating the security code is wrong, or cookies are not enabled.

Posted by: trgaham052 on August 25, 2013 09:00 AM
14. Adam Faber, HACK, can't even be bothered to keep these comment threads cleared of commercial spam.

Posted by: Ivan on August 26, 2013 08:12 AM
15. "Do what the Seattle Times does, when they don't like what you write, if it doesn't meet the main stream liberal New World Order lies, they eliminate the comment..."

Well, pudge deletes comments that call him on his nonsense, and bans any commenter who successfully argues any claim pudge makes. Tim Eyeman edits comments, also without consent, and poor old Jim Miller has finally given up all pretense of dialog, closing comments and veering further and further from reality. Those are the acceptable methods of stifling dissent here. :-)

Posted by: tensor on August 26, 2013 11:13 AM