Coal-Free Bellingham has issued a press release reacting to the Court of Appeals decision that keeps their anti-coal-transport initiative off the ballot in November.
Here is the press release:
Yesterday, the Court of Appeals in Seattle announced that Coal-Free-Bellingham’s appeal would be denied. Coal-Free-Bellingham had asked for a stay of the Whatcom Superior Court order of August 3 which ordered the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights off the ballot. As a result of the denial of the appeal, the voters will not be allowed to express their views on the Bill of Rights in November.
“This decision is a loss to the community and to the world,” said Rick Dubrow, co-chair of the campaign committee for the Bill of Rights. “In our present circumstances, the only way for society to protect the natural ecosystems on which our lives depend is for each community to take on that responsibility. The federal and state governments are not doing the job that we need. “
“It is also a direct attack on the initiative process,” said David Maas, a member of the campaign Steering Committee. “By circumscribing yet again what the voters are allowed to vote on, the courts are attacking one of the fundamentals of our democracy and are working to prevent the structural changes that we will need for survival. This decision confirms the system’s calcification.”
Far from giving up, the NO COAL! group and its sister organization Living Democracy will be holding a retreat in the coming weeks to determine its next steps. It has taken on larger office space and is keeping staff in place.
“The threat of the coal trains is just one example of innumerable unsustainable practices encouraged by the current system,” said Stoney Bird, committee co-chair. “As responsible members of the community, we cannot sit by just because the inertia of the system mandates these harms. When the legal system mandates harm, it’s time to change the legal system.”
“The Court of Appeals did not elaborate, but seems to have adopted a new approach in Washington. The new approach prevents citizens from voting on initiatives when the initiatives challenge existing laws that are inadequate to protect the health and safety of community members,” said Breean Beggs, attorney for the NO COAL! group.
Under current legal concepts, the railroad company and other corporate participants in the coal project are not responsible for the harm that they cause to ecosystems or people in Bellingham or elsewhere.
Passing the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights in November would have recognized fundamental rights to clean air and water and to local self-government. It would also have recognized the rights of local ecosystems to flourish, and would have prohibited corporations from transporting coal within the City of Bellingham, among other provisions.
End press release
1. Attorney Beggs suggests that this case reflects a “new approach” in keeping people from voting on initiatives. But qualified initiatives have been kept off the Bellingham ballot on at least three previous occasions that I can recall. One of those cases involved an initiative backed by developers and commercial property owners who had hoped to overturn new city stormwater fees put in place to help reduce the impact of development on water quality.
2. ”Under current legal concepts, the railroad company and other corporate participants in the coal project are not responsible for the harm that they cause to ecosystems or people in Bellingham or elsewhere,” the press release says. While current law may not provide all the environmental protection that some people would like to see, it seems a bit of an exaggeration to say that corporations are “not responsible for the harm they cause.”