by Deborah Steele Hazen
“One of the striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.” – Mark Twain
Exaggerated, fear-mongering scenarios - even outright falsehoods – told many times over are too often believed. But their repetition, and the tendency for some people to want to believe them and extrapolate upon them, does not make them true.
The Port of St. Helens management and commissioners have taken a lot of heat in the past 15 months or so since they signed an agreement with Kinder Morgan to allow that company to investigate whether to even start the permitting process to locate a coal exporting terminal at the Port Westward industrial park near Clatskanie.
In that agreement, the Port required Kinder Morgan to meet with the cities, identify issues and work to solve them. Clearly, as Port of St. Helens commission president Robert Keyser pointed out – and we reported two weeks ago – that hasn’t happened.
During the past 15 months or so, there have been a lot of self-proclaimed experts imagining a dozen or more mile-long coal trains a day belching tons of coal dust through Rainier to create jobs costing $1 million each in safety upgrades; huge stacks of coal surrounded by black clouds at Port Westward, etc., etc.
A couple of family members and I passed a coal train (not a sign of dust) on I-5 near Woodland the other day. It’s amazing we survived!
We have tried to correct some of these inaccuracies, but – as we wrote a couple of weeks ago – we don’t think that Kinder Morgan should spend any more money trying to locate a coal terminal such as it was proposing in Columbia County, and we don’t think it will.
It was a very reasonable action for the Port of St. Helens to take in January 2012 to allow the discussion to begin.
We’ve had the discussion. The governors of Oregon and Washington have come out against it. Well, they haven’t been absolutely clear that they’re totally against it, but they’ve asked for a “programmatic review” which would take years.
Let’s Move On
Now it’s time to move on to other prospective clients at Port Westward. And, they’re out there, ready to provide more jobs. Some of them don’t require trains, but they need the land.
The 18-month-long option agreement between the Port and Kinder Morgan is up in July, and we expect an announcement sometime between now and then, that Kinder Morgan will not go the way of the Bradwood LNG project and waste tens of millions of dollars trying to satisfy the various requirements put before it by state and federal agencies and the anti-industry lobby.
One of the inaccuracies we have failed to dislodge from the minds of the anti-coal-train activists, is that the proposed rezoning of 957 acres at Port Westward is not about coal trains, it’s about the future of economic development at the best port facility left on the Lower Columbia River.
Yes, if Kinder Morgan did somehow out-last the opposition, spend millions upon millions and break through all the barricades of permitting to actually locate here, its terminal would go on a small portion of that property. But I bet you – and I feel very safe in this bet – that’s not going to happen.
The rezoning at Port Westward is about the potential for good-paying jobs for local residents.
It’s about fixing the infrastructure in our county.
It’s about higher tax valuation that will help our schools, our fire districts, our sheriff’s department and other county services, our library, our park and recreation district, our Port district, vector control, 4-H and extension service – all those local government services and programs that we depend upon.
The Port of St. Helens commission and staff is well run. It is bringing good jobs to Columbia County. It has better relationships with the county and our legislators than ever before. It is working hard with state leaders and agencies to identify a clear path forward for economic development.
Port Commissioner Terry Luttrell has been part of that effort. Please read the statements of the two candidates for Port of St. Helens position 4 on page 5, then join us in re-electing Terry Luttrell.