Gateway Pacific Terminal — Talkin' with The Gubernor
This might seem incongruous, considering my previous criticism of her, but I found it a great pleasure speaking with Governor Chris Gregoire at Taylor Shellfish Farms yesterday. She was there to meet with members of the Puget Sound Partnership, which she formed in 2007 to help heal our severely polluted inland sea.
I was there because the prospect of a coal train derailment along Samish Bay seemed an appropriate subject to broach with her. 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. However, the Governor's Q & A session with agency leads and stakeholders was productive, and had I interjected my coal train question, it would have looked like a Geraldo Rivera-style 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 where I called on the governor to take action against the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal.
She acknowledged having read 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 could go ahead and shoot his mouth off, because Oregon does not have the same in-depth processes to study the proposed coal 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 could grant, deny or or sometimes approve a project, but with many costly mitigations to be borne by the applicant. In the latter instance, Gregoire said with a little 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