With the recent stories covered here on this Blog about coal trains moving west to the Washington ports and now the huge welcome recently of a vessel arriving at the Port of Olympia from China with fracking sands headed east, I asked Port Commissioner Sue Gunn to share her views on fracking. I thank her for her time, considered response and for providing this information to our community.
Here are Commissioner Gunn’s comments in her won words:
“I campaigned on this issue and oppose fracking. I don’t see it as a “transitional” fuel as is being pitched by the Obama Administration. To be transitional you’d actually have to have a plan to move to alternative energy and I don’t see one anywhere on the horizon. The government has provided cradle to grave subsidies to the oil and gas and nuclear industries but I that kind of support isn’t available for alternative energy production. I also have deep concerns about the impact to groundwater and the release of methane, a gas thirty times more effective than CO2 in holding heat in the atmosphere.
One of the problems of eliminating that type of cargo is the interstate commerce clause. In conversations with attorneys I’ve been told that when comes to prohibiting a specific cargo there are constraints provided by that law. You’ll recall when people tried to prevent the development of a WalMart in Tumwater that WalMart prevailed and it was in great part due to protections conferred under the interstate commerce law.
I’ve taken another tack and am working with Port staff to prioritize environmentally-sustainable cargos. At this point, I would define that type of cargo as that which is carbon-neutral. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that there are that many such cargo available to our “breakbulk” terminal. At one point the Port unloaded wind blades but when the federal tax credit disappeared so did the cargo. (For the record, there was opposition to that product too because of it’s (sic) impact on birds.) I’m just beginning to get involved with the research on environmentally-sustainable cargo but staff is already focused on finding prospects. There are several clean energy conferences on the horizon that Port representatives will be attending to learn more.
Basically, the reason the Port can tout that the marine terminal now operates in the “black” is because of the vast volume of fracking sand that is being unloaded off of ships arriving from China. I think it’s important people realize that and register their concerns especially if they care about the impacts of climate change on our world.“
Sue Gunn, Ph.D.
Port of Olympia
915 Washington Street, NW
Olympia, WA 98501