Conflict at Rep. Larsen’s kickoff

Islanders showed up with signs promoting green energy at a recent campaign kickoff forRepresentative Rick Larsen of the Second District, who is running for re-election.

Islanders showed up with signs promoting green energy at a recent campaign kickoff forRepresentative Rick Larsen of the Second District, who is running for re-election.

Orcas and Lopez Islanders came equipped to Odd Fellows Hall on June 8 with environmental concerns primarily focused on the proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point and jet noise pollution.

Coal terminal

If approved, the $650 million Gateway Terminal would be the largest bulk export facility on the West Coast, perhaps in the nation. At full capacity, it would be capable of exporting up to 54 million metric tons of coal a year from the plant that SSA Marine, which operates an export terminal at the Port of Seattle and others worldwide, is seeking to build at Cherry Point, just north of Bellingham.

The proposed facility would store coal transported by rail from Montana and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin on coal-train caravans, each more than a mile long, circulating daily through the plant. The coal would then be shipped through the Salish Sea and San Juans by cargo ships – many of which measure more than three football fields in length – to Asian markets, where it would be sold as fuel.

FRIENDS of the San Juans Board Vice President Janet Alderton said her goal at the recent meeting was to inspire Larsen to reconsider his support for the coal terminal. Alderton told Larsen that the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal is “all risk and no benefit” for the islands.

Larsen has been vocal about his support for the coal terminal because he says it will create jobs.

Alterton voiced her opinion that there are other ways to support job growth through companies that provide solar energy, wind power and other energy efficient services.

Larsen told the Sounder that he supports renewable energy and hopes in the future that they will create more jobs, but currently cannot compete with the 2,000 jobs produced by the terminal.

He added that there are thousands of Washingtonians are out of work and as a Democrat one of his main concerns is  job creation.

Larsen does support President Obama’s EPA proposals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. At the event, Alderton accused him of being hypocritical because he supports the reduction of coal burning in the U.S. but favors the export of public coal reserves to be burned in Asia.

Larsen told the Sounder that as an elected official he is constantly “trying to find balance” between the economy and the environment.

Jet noise

The other hot topic at the event was jet noise on Lopez Island. The noise from thousands of engine tests and training runs by new EA 18G “Growlers” and other planes at Naval Air Station Whidbey and Outlying Landing Field Coupeville has generated concern.

Karen Grimes, Cynthia Dilling and Councilman Jamie Stephens attended the campaign kickoff from Lopez.

Dilling had hoped that Larsen would hold meetings on both San Juan and Lopez so he could hear the Growlers and hear from the people.

Larsen told the Sounder that he has yet to make a decision on organizing such a meeting. He did say that he has been working with U.S. Navy on communicating to Lopez when carrier landings take place.

“It’s reasonable to have the Navy communicate to the public,” said Larsen. Currently he is working on getting an answer from the Navy about the landing issue.

“Our issue is to try to mitigate the noise we are receiving from Ault Field, which is affecting our quality of life, sleep, property values, use of our property and peace and quiet on which the economy of our county rests,” said Dilling about her motivation to attend Larsen’s kick-off.

She added that she is concerned Larsen’s support of the military and jobs the base in Oak Harbor provides overshadows the problems islanders are facing when it comes to jet noise.

This June, Larsen responded to the Navy’s decision to base six P-8A squadrons at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island by saying, “I have been a determined advocate to bring the P-8As to Whidbey Island. They will serve a critical role in our country’s pivot to the Asia-Pacific region as a focus for security and economic interests. I am pleased the Navy has once again shown its commitment to NAS Whidbey Island.”

Larsen has also served on the House Armed Services Committee since he came to the House of Representatives in 2001.

“My impression is that Representative Larsen is so deeply enmeshed with the military and the jobs it supplies for Boeing and the $1 billion that flows into Oak Harbor, it is hard for him to hear and respond to our concerns,” said Dilling.