Exxon Valdez: lessons learned? | Editorial

We recently observed the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez disaster and celebrated the first birthday of the San Juan Islands National Monument.

The day made infamous by the ship Exxon Valdez marks one of the darkest days in Pacific Northwest history; the National Monument designation day marks one of the shiniest.

February 2014 marked the 24th anniversary of the proposal to build a bulk commodities terminal at Cherry Point. Will there be a 25th?

Exxon Valdez taught us that assurances of “we’ll be careful, it won’t happen here” are empty after an ecological disaster. An entire pod of orcas were wiped out by the Exxon disaster.

A disaster of even one-tenth or one-twentieth the magnitude of the Prince William Sound oil spill might push J, K and L pods even further down the road to extinction. Would that and the degradation of the Salish Sea be worth the 4,000 “direct, indirect and imputed” jobs that construction of the terminal would bring?

The Whatcom County Council is now stacked with project opponents. The Department of Ecology has set standards for its ecological review that even supporters of the project say cannot be satisfied. Washington’s Lummi Nation, which claims it maintains “the largest Native fishing fleet in the United States” and holds ancestral fishing rights to Cherry Point, is opposed to the project. Towns and cities along the tracks from Wyoming to Bellingham say they don’t want the coal trains.

The writing is on the wall.

Perhaps this year will mark the last anniversary of an idea in which the dangers far outweigh the rewards.


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