Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Port Responds to Olympia Rail Protesters

By Janine Gates

As the blockade of a Union Pacific train carrying ceramic proppants in downtown Olympia continues into its sixth evening, Port of Olympia executive director Ed Galligan issued a brief press release written and released late Wednesday evening:

“The Port of Olympia is continuing to monitor a blockage located on a privately-owned rail line outside of Port facilities, where protestors have essentially halted interstate commerce for Port and other local business customers (e.g. Mottman Business Park). 

“Given the location and nature of these impacts, any future response or resolution will be coordinated by appropriate local, state and federal authorities.  The Port’s top priority is to see this situation resolved peacefully and ensure the safety of all involved, including Port staff who have also been subject to intimidation via recent vandalism at the Port’s administrative offices.  

“The Olympian has reported that the Port’s involvement in the shipping of fracking sands is one of the stated reasons behind the current protest. While the Port respects differing opinions, it is important to note that Port Districts are regulated by the Shipping Act of 1984.  The act requires ports to move all cargos deemed safe and legal.”

It is unclear why Galligan would single out The Olympian newspaper as the sole source for his information. The protesters and other community members have made it abundantly clear to the Port that the shipping of ceramic proppants is one of the reasons for their protest. 

At least two commissioners have been in direct communication with the protesters, and all, including Galligan, have received letters from community members about the issue. 

Many concerned individuals were present and spoke at the port commission meeting on Monday night during public comment, and an autonomous group at the rail blockade issued a public letter to the port that was sent to the port and reprinted in a Little Hollywood article Wednesday morning. 

Commissioner Downing’s View

Little Hollywood asked the three Port Commissioners over the past weekend about the rail blockade. E.J. Zita’s statement was published in a previous article. Commissioner Bill McGregor has not yet responded.

Received on Wednesday, here is Port Commissioner Joe Downing’s statement about port cargoes:

As a Port Commissioner, I am bound by two things: the Shipping Act of 1984, and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, both of which prohibit states or local agencies from interfering with interstate (and international) commerce.  On a more personal level, I will not act in conflict with the law of the land: 48 out of 50 states allow fracking, as does the federal government. Fracking in general has allowed the United States two very big dividends:

1)      We have less greenhouse gases from energy production, due to more reliance on natural gas, and less on coal;

2)      We are less reliant on Middle East oil, and that makes going to war over oil that much less likely – the last oil war in Iraq and Afghanistan cost 4,400 American, and 500,000 Afghan and Iraqi lives.

Not only that, but the public has implored the Port to improve its bottom line by making the Marine Terminal more profitable.  So, how can we decline cargo when we are uniquely positioned to accept proppant cargo from China, and to export logs grown from many different private land tracts?

I appreciate the citizens who come to Port meetings to voice their concerns.  I continue to believe that the great majority of people who live in Thurston County want me to a) use my best judgement in Port matters, and b) diversify, not divest, the cargoes of the Port.

For more information about the Port of Olympia, ceramic proppants, and the rail blockade, go to Little Hollywood, and type key words into the search button.

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