Gateway Pacific Terminal — Rapping with The Gubernor
This will seem incongruous to my previous criticism of her, but it was a pleasure speaking with Governor Chris Gregoire at Taylor Shellfish Farms yesterday. She was there to meet with members of the Puget Sound Partnership she formed in 2007 to help restore our polluted inland sea.
I was there because the prospect of a coal train derailment along Samish Bay seemed an appropriate subject to broach. Five coal trains have derailed around the country in the past month, including one along the Columbia River near Pasco. That sooty scenario here could be devastating for the bay and the shellfish farm. But the Governor's Q & A session with agency leads and stakeholders was updbeat and productive and had I then interjected the coal train question, it would have been like a Geraldo Rivera ambush. So I kept my piehole shut and just introduced myself as she was leaving.
"I can't imagine you're my biggest fan," I said, referring to my recent Seattle Times op-ed calling on the governor to take action against the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal.
She acknowledged reading the piece and held her stance on the pending coal ports. "I'm not going to shoot my mouth off and taint the process," she said bluntly. By contrast, she said Gov. Kitzhaber of Oregon — who called for a programmatic Environmental Impact Study only days after my article ran — could go ahead and shoot his mouth off. "Oregon does not have the same in-depth processes to study the proposed export facilities as does Washington."
I offered my concern that "the process" was geared towards ultimately granting approval. "They call it a permitting process for a reason. It generally grants permits." Not so, she countered. The process, she offerred, could grant or deny or sometimes approve a project, but with many costly mitigations to be borne by the applicant. In the latter instance, Gregoire said with a quick smile, "they sometimes just walk away."
Nod nod, wink wink? Well, one can dream.
That coal train issue was rumbling to the tip of my tongue, but the governor was being affable and engaging and we were surrounded by a number of important stakeholders who were wondering how the conversation had suddenly turned to coal. So, I chose to break with tradition... and not "shoot my mouth off."
Though I did get a couple of decent shots.
Governor Chris Gregoire with Bill Dewey of Taylor Shellfish Farms, Samish Bay, WA