The Puget Sound Regional Council released a study in which it evaluates economic impacts of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal in Cherry Point near Bellingham. The terminal would serve as an export-import facility for dry commodity goods including coal—much to the vexation of liberal billionaire Tom Steyer.
The study acknowledges some economic benefits of the Gateway Pacific Terminal, but reaches certain conclusions that “drew criticism from area labor and business leaders.” The Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports,
“The study attempted to assign costs to increased rail traffic and predict increases in wait times around the terminals. It fails to note that the volume of trains running in Washington today is lower than the high point of rail volume that occurred prior to the recession. The study does not explain or evaluate whether those costs were observed in 2006, when communities were experiencing rail volumes similar to the levels that Gateway Pacific would generate when the facility reaches full capacity – around 2025.”
Kris Johnson, president of the Association of Washington Business, expressed concerns over the study’s failure to recognize that “Gateway and the other proposed bulk commodity export terminals will generate $1.5 billion in private investment to grow and expand trade with Asia – benefiting Washington’s trade industry and Washington based exporters.”
Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant, who represents Washington’s ports on the Puget Sound Regional Council executive board, points of the need for Gateway to generate jobs—a fact the study’s skips over. Bryant stated, “If our trade-dependent economy is going to generate more family wage jobs and if we’re going to keep the jobs we have now, our state and the railroads need to invest in critical rail improvements.”
The study’s unsupported conclusions and overlooked benefits concerning Gateway also raised questions of bias. Terry Finn, a member of the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Transportation Policy Board,
“The point is that dislike of a specific commodity or opposition to its transport should not be allowed to constrain or otherwise damage a rail transportation system critical to the Washington economy and its trade position. Many of the opponents of coal would not be stoking fears of rail congestion were almost any other commodity in play. In fact, many would be supporting increases in train traffic to rid our highways and cities of major congestion and air deterioration caused by car and trucks.”
Finn’s concerns of bias are justified when considering the fact that authors of the study are funded by staunch coal opponents. The Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports points out that one of the study’s main authors, Public Financial Management (PFM), “completed past work for Communitywise Bellingham, an advocacy organization opposed to the Gateway Pacific Project.” The study does not warn of the conflict of interest.