By Rolf Boone, October 17, 2014, 2014
Port of Olympia commissioners George Barner and Sue Gunn have fired back at the Washington Public Ports Association, a trade association, with a letter of their own after the association’s executive committee took issue with a recently approved resolution that was supported by the two Olympia commissioners.
In August, the Port of Olympia commission voted 2-1 to approve a resolution that originally was proposed by Barner and won support from Gunn. Commissioner Bill McGregor voted against it at the Aug. 25 commission meeting.
The resolution, essentially a public statement of support or endorsement, expressed “the deep concerns of the Port of Olympia about the threat to life, safety, the environment and economic development” posed by oil trains transporting North Dakota Bakken crude oil through Thurston County.
The resolution goes on to request that the Port of Grays Harbor reconsider siting three oil terminals and requests that the city of Hoquiam not approve construction of the terminals.
That led the WPPA executive committee to send letters, dated Sept. 16, to both commissioners, writing “to censure you for your support and passage of this resolution.”
“The Port of Grays Harbor has committed to a thorough environmental review and permitting process for this operation, and it is inappropriate in the extreme for any port commission to presume to tell another port commission what lawful operations it can or cannot engage in, or what decisions it can or cannot make,” the WPPA executive committee wrote.
Barner said Thursday that he was “amazed and stunned” to receive a letter of censure, adding that the WPPA was overreaching its authority. “It’s quite strange to react that way,” he said. “We’re attempting to inform and educate our residents about oil trains.”
Commissioner Gunn could not be reached Thursday.
But Barner and Gunn responded with their own letter this week, a copy of which was forwarded to The Olympian, saying they were “deeply disappointed” by the WPPA executive committee.
“We have a legitimate right to be concerned over decisions made by jurisdictions adjacent to Thurston County because of the potential negative consequences on Thurston County as well as other parts of Washington state, other states in the union, and the global climate resulting from increased oil train traffic,” they wrote.
They also took issue with some language used in the WPPA executive committee letter.
“(The WPPA letter) states that the Port of Olympia’s resolution ‘condemns’ another port commission. The resolution contains no such language. Instead, it merely asks that the Port of Grays Harbor ‘reconsider’ its decision and that the City of Hoquiam ‘deny’ construction permits.”
WPPA Executive Director Eric Johnson clarified Thursday that use of the word “censure,” comes with no consequences; it simply is a term of disapproval, he said.
Johnson added: “Our board felt that a formal resolution from any port opposing another port commission’s decision or process was inappropriate, and does not promote our culture of respect and learning,” he said. “It has nothing to do with any particular cargo or project. Rather, it has to do with respecting one port commission’s decision to to make decisions.”
The WPPA serves 75 port districts in the state.