environment

Recent Photos, mostly ships and trains

...plus some comments about fracksand "proppants" and explosive oil train shipments...

Logs Loaded, Cranes Stowed for Departure
Weyerhaeuser logs loaded aboard Sun Ruby at Port of Olympia Marine Terminal. Lately I have been wondering how much these logs are worth.

Sun Ruby Log Ship
Sun Ruby loading logs, last week.

UP Container Shipment
Union Pacific container train, video:

Rails of South Thurston CountyRails

Global Peace Bulk Carrier
Global Peace bulk log carrier finishing stages of loading

Centralia Hearing for Proposed Grays Harbor Oil Terminals

About 30 people traveled by bus from Thurston County to Centralia, to attend a hearing about proposed oil export terminals in Grays Harbor. Many speakers were from affected rail corridor areas. Comments to the EIS Scoping were wide and most major issues were covered. About 150 people attended the hearing. Here's video, 3 hours, 14 minutes:

Train Carries Proppants for Oil Fracking Through Downtown Olympia

Jefferson Street Tracks with Train Coming from Port
Jefferson Street Tracks with Train Coming from Port (see larger)

+ some thoughts about fracking:
Maybe the ultimate problem with fracking (and other extreme fossil fuel extraction, like oceanic deepwater and oilsands,) is that society is already living far beyond the sustainable carrying capacity of the planet (...much less living alongside, and in harmony with natural planetary systems.) These extreme extraction industries further enable the growth-based economic system to continue. When what is really necessary is curtailment. Not growth. Growth is a problem. We need solutions. Like  efficiency and conservation, and urgent transition to renewables. The real political prerogative needs to be achieving overall economic curtailment, while ensuring uplift for all the world's poorest, and most disadvantaged. ...so how can true, long-term sustainability be achieved?...(please, pardon me *staring dreamily into space* :).

Additional related thoughts:
Jobs are needed, yes. And good jobs. There has got to be a better way than for jobs that go to support fossil fuel industry Billionaires.

Centralia Steam Plant

On a country drive yesterday, snapped a couple of pictures of the Centralia Steam Plant: the generator is the single largest point source of carbon emissions in Washington State [See on Map]. I had to wait about 10 minutes for a coal train to cross before proceeding from SR507 onto Big Hanaford Road.

Centralia Steam
Centralia Steam Plant

Centralia steamer
Centralia Steamer

Coal fired capacity is 1340 MW, and the plant is capable of burning up to nine 110 car coal trains per week. According to Internet sources, Transalta has been working hard in recent years to clean up its Centralia operations. Still, annual releases of mercury, a neuro-toxin, are estimated to be around 350 pounds. Exposure to mercury has been linked to intellectual and other developmental disabilities. In a deal with former Governor Gregoire, and the Department of Ecology, the plant owners and operators have agreed to shut down the coal burning operation by 2025.

Media starting with a couple of short videos:

Petition the Port of Olympia to Stop Partaking in the Fracking Business

Three major explosions in the past few months have been linked to oil trains carrying frack oil from North Dakota. The shipments of proppants going through the Port of Olympia have been supporting that very same fracking industry — which is destructive and which contributes to the climate crisis. Besides the explosions, one of which killed 47 people—the explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec [1]—the industry has been implicated in wide ranging array of grievous social and environmental harms [2] [3].

News comes out about fracking related water pollution almost daily now [4]. Fracking is an extreme extraction technology that really does nothing to solve the energy crisis. In fact, it conflicts with the need for urgent transition to options for sustainable renewable energy.

Why does any one person or group of people, own and control the right to abuse the land and environment any more than another person? Why are the owners of the petroleum industry so enriched at the expense of others? Is it possible that there is a basic corruption at hand? Is it possible that fracking is actually a boondoggle, counterproductive to human progress?

So I ask you please, sign this petition. Here is the web url: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/port-of-olympia-stop.

Thank you, and best wishes for 2014!

Robert Whitlock
Olympia, Washington

Beautiful Waters Moving

A few days ago I saw these videos of a sunny and frozen Tumwater falls. The beautiful Moon tonight provided inspiration to post them. The first four are by Nancy Partlow, and then the last one is by Helen Wheatley, advocating for restoration of the Deschutes River Estuary. Le'go...

Port and Environment

Port of Olympia Marine Terminal has two main major clients, one is timber export, the other is proppant import. Both clients have questionable environmental impacts. Proppants are used in the hydraulic-fracturing process. Timber comes from clearcutting. Recently, the port has been appreciated for increasing its income to the point where it will no longer be operating at a financial loss. Much of this improvement is due to the hard work of port staffers, and they deserve commendation and congratulations for their hard work. Still, questions remain. If the port's business model depends on activities that harm the environment, then has the real cost to future generations been truly and accurately accounted for?


Here's a video of a recent bulk log carrier, the Aster K, loading up. As of the 1st of December, the Spinnaker SW has been loading logs.

Percival Landing Kiosk Shelter with Oyster Art History Exhibit
Percival Landing art exhibit, story of the Oysters of Budd Bay—Oysters have been in extreme decline, ever since over-harvesting and heavy industry combined to make conditions adverse.

Aster K — Bulk Log Carrier
Aster K, Weyerhauser ship, alongside Port Marine Terminal Pier

Port Shipping Proppants for Petroleum Hydro-Fracking

Yes, the Earth has been fractured for extreme oil extraction

IMG_1487
MV Aracari in Port. This is one of the most recent shipments of "proppants" to support the North Dakota petroleum hydro-fracking industry of the Bakken Oil Formation.

IMG_1488
Port of Olympia Marine Terminal, view of the ship unloading proppants, some of which have been stored in the warehouse.

The proppants are used in very deep wells, in the Bakken Oil Shale formation of North Dakota. Because of the extreme pressures in the wells (some are greater than 8,000 feet deep,) the proppants are used to prop open fissures (that have been blasted open by the hydraulic fracturing process.)

The practice of hydro-fracking has come under fire from social and environmental activists, based on several known harmful aspects of the industry, including local to global environmental impacts, harm to Native American communities, and harm to agricultural efforts.

MV Aracari Arrow
The proppants have been imported from China, notorious for non-existent labor and environmental protections. People have asked whether the material might be contaminated with toxins from the manufacturing process, and no clear answer has been provided for how the materials have been tested for toxic contaminants.

[update, correction:

Local Power, Sustainability, and Democracy


Campaign for Local Power —The above video tells some of the story of the recent successful electrical municipalization effort in Boulder Colorado. It also says that the power company, Excel energy, is mounting an election campaign to challenge the successful grass roots effort (they were outspent 10 to 1 — similar to what happened here in Thurston with the Public Power Initiative.)

So what do you think? Do you like the idea of clean, sustainable, renewable supplies of power? You know, PSE uses coal to generate about 1/3 of electricity supplied to the Puget Sound region, yes it's true. And much of that coal fired electricity comes from a coal plant all the way over in Eastern Montana, from a company town called Colstrip, which was built around and along with the coal plant. I traveled there and visited briefly in late July, and this is some of what I saw:

High Voltage Lines from Colstrip Montana Electrical Generator
Here are high voltage transmission lines on the way out of Colstrip. The lines are owned and operated by the Federal Public BPA (Bonneville Power Administration.)

Here's a panorama shot of the scene from the roadway before the plant:
Colstrip 9 image composite
The Colstrip Montana Electric Generating Station. See more photos from July 2013 here (and a larger size version is posted here, below the fold.) Also, a 1986 book by David T. Hanson, features a great collection of photos of the power plant and surrounding areas. It's available on the Internet. And the Sierra Club has a group dedicated to specifically working on this issue to break PSE's dirty coal habit, that website: Coal Free PSE.

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