OK

The Carboncrats dream up new big carbon pollution schemes.  We get to live them.  

As we confront the spectre of vast coal export plans throughout the west coast of the US and BC, we see that much of the decision process really boils down to the question of whether we will be allowed to engage in a full consideration of the issues, and actually apply our brains to the serious question of whether we should accept a massive further expansion of big carbon infrastructure.

This is illustrated clearly in the project development permit application by the Pacific International Terminals (a.k.a. PIT, or The Pit if you like, a subsidiary of SSA Marine) to build what would be the largest coal export terminal in North America, with up to 48 million tons of coal exported per year.  The proposed site is at an aquatic reserve at Cherry Point, WA.  Lots of background on this destructive, climate-busting big carbon scheme can be found at Coal Train Facts (also see previous installments in this series, listed at bottom).

While it has been known for years that exposure to emissions from combustion of fossil fuels can impair the development of mental functions, in the latest twist of the Cherry Point proposal saga, we see project advocates working to create impairments of decision processes, information collection, discussion, and mental function in general when it comes to their plan.

They might be forgetting
a step or two ...
Since the terminal project was proposed, PIT has done everything possible to make the application process as narrow, sequestered, and generally removed from human input as possible.  At first, they tried the obviously illegal tactic of seeking to use an ancient permit as their authorization to build the huge coal terminal.

Then, they insisted (and still insist) that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should only consider concerns inside the facility boundary, despite a literally worldwide swath of destructive impacts.

The reason for this approach is clear.  Humans, at times, have a pesky habit of asking questions about the reality of what may occur.  These questions may not obviously emerge from the sanitary looking maps and diagrams in the Assault Engaging Stacks of Paper (AESOP) that is expected to arrive here by Monday.

The next move has been, through threats of lawsuits, creating the condition where members of the Whatcom County, WA council have received legal advice that they should not receive any information about the terminal proposal from any information source, until it is time in a few years for them to vote on approval of the permit application.

Ok, now they're safe
 from any contamination by knowledge
or input from voters
.
The lunacy was summed up by Council member Ken Mann:
So, by law, we are expected to be the least informed people in the County regarding the biggest issue in many many years...
Quasi Judicial
The underlying theory is that since the council vote on the permit application is "quasi-judicial", and since judges should judge cases based on defined sets of admissible information, then the council should do the same.

But this brings up the obvious question, which is: If it is a quasi-judicial decision, and "quasi" means partly, then what is the other component of the decision?

To ask the question is to answer it.  The other component of the decision is precisely the thing that PIT is trying to take away from the council, which is: Input from the people who elected them.  Our values.  Our concerns.  This is to be frozen out.  Instead, PIT would prefer the Council enter a two-year brain freeze, followed by a decision process where only part of their brains can be applied.

But wait!  It gets worse!

Before that long-awaited day when decision makers get to mull through "the record", looms the question of admissability.  That is, what information qualifies to be included a part of "the record"?  No prizes for guessing that the items most likely to be challenged, and removed from "the record", will be inputs from people about the things that they value.

This latest maneuver is simply the latest installment of PIT's overall plan to remove human values from all aspects of the process.

Not by coincidence, the big news last week was about the $2,650 question, that being the limit of costs that the applicant has to pay the county to cover costs of processing the permit application.  While most commentary focused on the imposition of costs on the county, an important consequence is that the resulting budget limits would limit the amount of thoughtful consideration that the county could apply.  Seeing a pattern here?

When human values
are left out of the decision,
sometimes the results
are less good
Their expectation is that if each box can be checked, each process step completed, then there will be no legal basis to deny the permits.  Then, the mechanized brain of legal imperatives will take over and make decisions for us.

Any person with most of a brain would think that, somewhere in the process, there would be a step where people get to decide, based on all information, whether a huge proposed big carbon project is a good idea or a bad idea.

Our job is to make sure that human thought processes and values get included front and center in the decision.

To achieve that, we have so far seen a number of approaches.  They differ in method, but are the same in purpose: To put some humanity back into the process.

- The mainstream method is to fight inside the permitting process, starting with input into the EIS scoping process.  There are many serious impacts, which if fully considered in light of all existing laws, and if the people evaluating the application are allowed to consider the real human consequences, should result in any permit being rejected.

While technical information about the harms of the project is important (and a whole lot of this is definitely going to be provided), the most important area of citizen input is summed up in part of the guidance provided by Protect Whatcom:

Describe how the impact relates directly to you.
- Another method is to create parallel processes that, by their definition, are intended to reflect human values.  The most notable example of this method is a citizen initative to ban the movement of the coal trains through Bellingham.  An accompanying county initiative is getting under way.  Both initiatives are based on the concept that the residents of a place get to have a direct say in whether a harmful activity will be allowed.

- When citizens write to the state land commissioner (who also will be issuing a permiting decision), the most effective letters are handwritten, including the hundreds of valentines that the commissioner received on the subject.

- At various events within the past year, as many as 800 people at once have gathered to show that they care about protecting our community from the scheme.  

Right brain for this decision?
The common thread should be apparent.

PIT wants the decision makers, including the County Council, to proceed forward using partial brains that have been sitting on the shelf in jars for a few years.  I vote for entire, healthy, and well informed brains for this one.  Let everybody contribute their thoughts, and values, toward a decision that we can all be proud of.

Upcoming events:

- Please come on out for this rally on March 20th!  (FB Event Link).

- Also on March 20th, immediately after the rally, the county will hold a meeting to provide information about the EIS process.

- On March 22nd, Safeguard the South Fork is hosting a meeting that includes information about the potential threat of an eastern train route

Any time you think that you don't have a choice, you actually do.  

Any time you think you have to do something that's wrong, you don't.

Our future - worth saving

Not Here.  
Not Today.  
Not Any More.

Green field and sky photo with permission from Paul Anderson

Previous entries in the series, in chronological order first to most recent:

We shall not participate in our own destruction
Pretty much the dumbest idea ever
Can a community defy a cabal of multi-national corporations?
Great for the coal cabal!  For us, not so much
And So it Begins

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