Martin Passmore, 910 Donovan Ave, Bellingham, WA 98225
(360) 671 5612
About me (enough to give some perspective on my POV):
I am 78, a retired mechanic; thanks to the UW, a 3-year cancer survivor. I have lost two close members of my family to cancers, so I take its causes very seriously. (The long-term resident pollutants from coal dust and combustion are not reassuring). I worked in shipbuilding, as an engineer in the merchant service, on construction (all based in the UK), and (in the US) mostly in fish plants. I also worked for short periods on farms, in the Norwegian woods, and trucking. I was born in a middle-class family, but I missed many years of school due to debilitating abdominal symptoms whose cause ultimately took me 60 years to identify. Trying to make up for the education gap I came to Washington to study biology, but had to leave and support a family the year that the last person leaving Seattle was politely asked to turn out the lights, and I was lucky to get a laboring job for my children's pre-school years.
What my father described as the great turning points in his life were the horrific stories he heard from older schoolmates returning from the trenches in WW1; the Depression; and the threat from fascism in the late 1930s, when he spent his savings on flying lessons preparing to join the RAF. I feel grateful for my own privileged life, and America has been particularly kind to me. For my remaining time, the cause that has become central, most deserving of effort, is turning back climate change.
My father described the horror of being a junior officer in the RAF command center on the night of the Luftwaffe blitz on Coventry. They were unable to mount a timely counterattack for fear of betraying the fact that the German codes had been successfully cracked.
We have one grandson: he is our sole bet on how to overcome the Darwinian Dilemma in the population stakes. For me the exasperation that resonates a little with my father's horrible experience is the apathetic generation-long delay in responding to all the evidence especially from ice*, the result largely of a wet blanket of well-funded denial** after the model of earlier deniers of CFCs and lung cancer. His generation had very little to work with, but they found the human strengths to win. We have an abuntance of means to choose from, but building community with enough heart to get it done in time against the numbers is the challenge.
My website, mostly on related topics, is cedarcoastcarbon.com
I very much appreciate the privilege of being able to offer comments upon the scope of issues to be covered in this forthcoming extremely important EIS.
* (movie "Chasing Ice")
** ("Merchants of Doubt" Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway)
Comments toward the Scope of the EIS for the Gateway Pacific Terminal
[I had prepared this as a web page, but at the last minute see no way to upload it as such. I will put some or all of it on my blog soon for easier reference]
Martin Passmore, 910 Donovan Ave, Bellingham, WA 98225
(360) 671 5612
Topics I am requesting EIS scope-coverage of:
Impact of adding this much CO2 to the atmosphere, and so indirectly to oceans.
The US brokered the agreement at the Copenhagen UNFCCC conference in 2009 among about 140 countries, representing 80% of GHG output, to limit global temperature rise to 2°C. There is hope for a more binding consensus in 2015 for 2020, although this is an intensely political process, and not only within the US. But, assuming GHGs are really the cause of climate change, and that the rise is as fierce as professionals insist; then sadly, the balance of world opinion can all too confidently be expected to reach critical mass within the next decade or so. China, the intended customer, has already slowed their building of coal plants, and has an ambitious although not-yet-binding intention to include drastic reductions in future 5-year plans. We might be in the process of at last weaning ourselves from this underpriced toxin, but to begin exporting it at this scale after Copenhagen will seriously weaken our position in future negotiations.
7/8 of the world's fossil carbon is coal. Adding this much investment onto the already too-large coal-burning economy is a problem: the elimination of thermal coal in electricity production, despite—because!--of its dominance is the critical challenge, if there is to be any hope of staying below the 2°C ceiling. It is true that some amelioration could come from increased sequestration (CCS), but at considerable energy and financial cost without much addressing the other destructive effects of coal:
Unmined coal, left underground, is itself the ultimate CCS; it is a climate change asset, like forest, and has been since the Carboniferous Era. In all fairness, once carbon pricing gets underway, there may need to be some recognition of this.
Pollution health effects:
Hg, As, Cd, Pb, Cr, others especially metals:
Direct environmental damage of mining and coal treatment upon native, cultivated and human communities, as in Appalachia:
The increase in ship traffic's addition to the global atmospheric SOx burden because of the use of bunker fuel is complex. This explains the worry:
Now regulations are coming into effect to reduce sulfur, especially in US and northern European coastal waters, but there is concern for shippers about supply, price volatility, and lessened engine reliability:
Effect of underpriced energy on delaying the introduction and scaling of necessary green alternatives; coal is overvalued in that the true (“Pigovian”) costs of its health and environmental effects are not reflected in its price to the consumer. This is true of all fossil fuel, but to an extreme in the case of coal.
Pricing of coal extracted from public lands is an issue (especially if so doing amounts to an unfair subsidy to a jobs competitor):
which elicits an interesting proposal for initiating a carbon tax:
Environmental and economic:
Washington State, in consultation with other western states and BC, has made significant commitments to reducing GHG and addressing climate impacts:
The amount of coal this/these projects would export using our facilities would over its/their projected lifetime utterly dwarf any GHG emission-savings we have planned or could hope to accomplish.
Alaska is already experiencing effects close to the 2°C mark. This illustrates the disproportionate impact of global warming upon high latitudes, accelerating the process while remaining only statistically apparent in temperate zones:
Impact of mine:
Water demand and damage in immediate area. Intent to lower pollution at point of use by remediation in vicinity of mines results in the local accumulation of dangerous amounts of toxic sludge:
Impact upon local ranching and other pre-existing economic activity:
Impact of rail transport:
Congestion, delays from at-grade crossings; problems intensified in Spokane area as other ports developed:
Increased risk of collisions: concentrated pollution from derailments. Whilst the following might not be rich in context it makes real how dramatic these events can be:
Distributed pollution from dust (especially in windy Columbia Gorge) (room for dispute here, BNSF claims mitigation) and exhaust:
Aggravated engine noise and exhaust from idling trains stopped constantly for long periods in sidings, often near populated areas:
Increased engine and siren noise, also vibration from moving trains. Here noise is approached with a matrix of 3 types of land use and increases in annoyance reported historically:
Impact of extra marine traffic on Great Circle route--along coast and through the Aleutians:
On fisheries, native communities and wildlife:
Possible severe impact of rare sinkings and strandings: BC, Alaska, Kamchatka, Japan and further into Asia. The remoteness and severe weather conditions along a route so close to inhospitable shorelines make this matter very important. This area has economic and environmental resources of great significance which are potentially vulnerable:
Inability of impacted governmental jurisdictions now to raise taxes to the extent necessary for remediation and probable disaster-recovery expenses because of recent citizen initiatives and the 5%: 95% ratio of costs inflicted by pre-existing railroad legislation:
Public feeling in the area is overwhelmingly against the project. It appears to be deeper and on an even wider scale than was visible before the Iraq war, if the public attendance at the scoping hearings is a fair sample. For many of the affected communities it is a sort of "taxation without representation" issue, in that they see no benefits whatever, and the possibility of severe impacts way beyond the already-great probable ones. Here is one youthful view:
Effect on eelgrass and herring spawning at Cherry Point, already identified as damaged critical habitat for the entire inland marine ecosystem:
Issues around Native life and treaty rights:
Possible magnified effect of expanded anchoring upon buried seabed pollutants;
Effect of washing and other cleaning activities upon groundwater, depending upon mean direction of flow:
Local effects of greatly increased rail and marine traffic on congestion, pollution, noise and risk (as above for region):
Risk of severe pollution (fuel and coal) from collisions due to increased ship traffic in sensitive marine areas and orca habitat (San Juan and Gulf Islands). Some studies claim non-linear collision risks past a certain density of any mode of traffic:
Lowering of property values:
Impact upon revitalization of waterfront. Here are two conflicting views which need to be resolved, although it is hard to imagine how the projected scale of delays might conceivably be offset:
Loss to local companies of current high-amenities of area as recruiting draw, and so less eagerness for innovative enterprise to locate here. Should this become a trend impacting taxes and schools it could make Bellingham substantially less competitive:
Impediment to emergency vehicles;
Offloading of costs of amelioration to local taxpayers, to the extent even possible;
Future costs of restoration when the project is abandoned in the future, especially should this happen at short notice (a “Black Swan” event) from a collapse of Asian markets from some tipping point in climate, an unexpected scaling of Chinese use of fracked natural gas and/or investment in clean energy, or foreign population revolt against pollution:
Some reduction of the local effects of mining is conceivable, if the industry would be willing critically to examine possible synergies between savings and mitigation:
Negotiation with entities responsible for management and emergency services in affected areas, which would make adequate financial mechanisms and infrastructure available in a timely fashion, ideally in the form of adequate levies and posted bonds. Due to century-old legislation, this might be more feasible in the marine environment than the rail one; a recent possible model is the establishment and funding of the rescue tug at Neah Bay for Juan de Fuca tanker traffic.
There really needs to be similar provision strategically located in the Aleutians funded from the freight rather than residents; and it is possible the USCG would welcome expansion of their present vessel-watch capability in Unimak Pass to Amchitka Pass and other western exits. (This situation can only become more urgent as sea traffic increasingly makes use of newly opening ice-free routes north of Russia and Canada):
The IMO has been proactive in promoting ballast transfers mid-ocean to reduce the migration of invasive organisms such as was consequent upon the opening of the Great Lakes Seaway:
(Although one spectacular incident was due to ballast transfer, likely due to a stability error):
The emissions of shore-based diesels have improved greatly in recent years, and the use of lower-sulfur fuel in the near future ought to help further. But the sheer quantity from substantial increases in traffic in combination with the number of toxics and carcinogens still identified in diesel exhaust remain a concern. If regulation of engine-idling in sidings forced reform of the traditional locomotive cooling systems to bring them in line with diesels in other applications, this would help, given the locally-concentrated nature of the current pattern.
(My understanding is that the examining agencies are only authorized to consider ways of mitigating impacts identified in the process. So what follows may only be context, but I believe it to be important context).
The UK's Stern report now estimates the cost of reducing GHG emissions for a 2050 target of 550 ppm at an annual 2% of GWP, still considerably less than health expenditures, and perhaps double the level of current fossil fuel subsidies, depending on the accounting; and far less than the ultimate, or by some estimates the current costs of climate change:
There is growing consensus that a carbon tax is the fairest and most effective way to reduce GHG emissions. This agreement is by no means limited to the green community:
Technology and implementation:
The use of anhydrous ammonia as the major constituent in diesel or gas turbine fuel in fleet applications is one approach to the reduction of noxious emissions: NH3 is a relatively safe and inexpensive means of storing hydrogen as fuel:
Here is a disturbing but comprehensive examination of the Socolow/Pacala “wedge” approach to the climate threat:
And here are three unconventional and little-discussed alternative insights on the overall problem: two on the supply side and the other a fresh look at the models of greenhouse gas and its genesis and a new approach to solutions. I do not have the credentials to examine these critically, but they each strike me as deserving of expert scrutiny by independent authorities.
Thorium rather than uranium fission:
A possible fast-track and scalable approach to fusion using boron, with claimed side-benefits for the disposal of current stockpiles of nuclear waste:
Natural biological agents said greatly to influence cloud albedo—the greenhouse-effect modifier we all notice daily, especially here. Potential paramount role for forest:
Advocates for the project speak mainly about the prospect of family-wage blue-collar jobs, although there is as much disagreement about those numbers as there is about the net tax advantage. It is true that the alternative economic analysis deals more with the damage to professional job-prospects, and while a now-familiar argument for clean energy is about creating offshoring-proof jobs in all sectors, in all probability most of those would accrue to the strong marine sector from Anacortes south through Tacoma, rather than here in the north sound. But the working community in the area has long been exceptionally mobile, witness the deep connection with Alaska through the fishing industry and those who serve area refineries. In my experience, all sectors of the workforce value the exceptional amenities of the Pacific Northwest and do not want it damaged unnecessarily.
GLOSSARY, ACRONYMS, ETC.
CFC: Chlorinated fluorocarbons. Formerly used as refrigerants, as propellant in consumer aerosol products, and in plastic foams
UNFCCC: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
GHG: Greenhouse gas
CCS: Carbon capture and storage/sequestration
SOx, NOx: Oxide families of sulfur and nitrogen, containing major causes of acid rain, smog and some GHG
Hg, As, Cd, Pb, Cr: Mercury, arsenic, cadmium, lead, chromium
Pigovian: An economics which accounts for costs associated with production and use otherwise not borne by the seller of a product
“Black Swan:” Unpredictable large-scale disruptive events, some of the class of which are certain to happen
IMO International Maritime Organization
GWP Gross world product
“Wedge” Concept of addressing climate change through a combination of policies and existing technologies, each of which would address one of 15 or so sectors of the problem and so subtracting a “wedge” of the area under the curve of a graph of projected exponential increases of GHG/temperature rise
Thorium: Th232, two elements down from uranium; abundant, its main defect is said to be an inability to produce plutonium
Albedo: Power to reflect light or heat