Unlike the communities of Prince William Sound or the Gulf Coast, communities on the shores of the Salish Sea and in the San Juan Islands haven’t yet experienced beaches and boats covered in crude oil, with carcinogenic toxic fumes causing them to evacuate seaside resorts, homes and businesses. And unlike Lac Megantic, Quebec, communities on the I-5 corridor between Portland, Oregon and Blaine, Washington haven’t yet experienced the devastation of a ‘bomb train’ in their towns. But with the lifting of the U.S. crude oil export ban in December 2015, unless communities get organized now, that day will come.
If communities on the Columbia River and Puget Sound want to avoid disastrous oil spills like those that wiped out fish and wildlife in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, the Bakken Shale crude spills resulting from the 2014 bomb train explosions in Alabama, Alberta, New Brunswick, North Dakota and Virginia serve as dire warnings of what can happen with a Salish Sea shipping disaster–on land or sea. While shipping Tar Sands bitumen and Bakken Shale crude by rail has made Warren Buffett (Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad) and Bill Gates (Canadian National Railway) a bundle, the tourism, fishing and real estate industries of the Salish Sea stand to suffer from fossil fuel export.
Hoping to cash in on creating crude zones on the Salish Sea and Washington coast, oil and coal exporters in 2014 began laundering money through the Washington Republican Party to elect pro-carbon candidates to the Washington State Legislature. When the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians took a position against fossil fuel export in 2013, Buffet began pouring money into Tea Party-led PACs that distinguished themselves by promoting anti-Indian racism on the radio and in newspapers near the Cherry Point oil refineries, that, in 2016, are preparing to capitalize on the lifted oil export ban.
Like the proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point, exporting crude oil and petrochemicals from the four refineries on the Salish Sea is a disaster waiting to happen. The devastation of a superspill — due to the looming dramatic increase in the volume of oil tanker traffic from Port Metro Vancouver, Cherry Point and Anacortes — would be beyond most people’s imagination.
While residents of the San Juan Islands and surrounding area remain relatively complacent about this ominous threat, residents of neighboring Gabriola Island, in August 2015, rallied against a proposal from the Pacific Pilotage Authority of Canada to moor cape-size oil tankers in the Gulf Islands. Something to think about.