By John Stark
Backers of SB 5805 insist that the measure has nothing to do with the Gateway Pacific Terminal coal export pier prop0sed for Whatcom County’s Cherry Point, but State Sen. Kevin Ranker is convinced otherwise.
Ranker, D-40th, says the backers are telling the truth when they say it had its origins in a desire to jump-start a long-stalled gravel-shipping pier project in Jefferson County. But that doesn’t change the fact that the bill’s language could also be applied to Gateway Pacific, Ranker said. He also suspects that many of the senators and lobbyists supporting the bill are well aware of that fact.
“This bill would remove Whatcom County from the decision-making process” on Gateway Pacific, Ranker said Thursday, Feb. 28. On Friday, Ranker filed several amendments meant to remove its potential impact on the coal terminal.
The bill, bill summary, bill digest and proposed amendments can all be viewed here.
State Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-32nd, and State Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-23rd, joined in that effort.
Among other things, the amendments would make sure that local governments must consent to an expedited permit process for a project deemed to be of special economic significance. Ranker’s amendments take the further step of stripping the bill of language that would make “transportation” and “basic commodity transportation” projects eligible for express-lane service in the regulatory process.
Here is an earlier blog post in which backers of the bill downplay its significance for Gateway Pacific, while stopping short of an outright denial that it could affect that project.
Ranker said he thinks it likely that the Republican-controlled (sorta, kinda controlled) Senate will pass SB 5805, but it won’t get through the House, and even if it does, it won’t get past the veto pen of Gov. Jay Inslee.
The Senate may vote on the bill today–Friday March 1.
UPDATE: Ranker’s legislative assistant, Kendall Farley, said the bill and the proposed amendments may come before the full Senate next week.
UPDATE NUMERO DOS: Gateway Pacific spokesman Craig Cole said he checked with SSA’s lobbyist in Olympia and was told that the company is not playing a role in pushing for the bill’s passage.
“It’s not our deal,” Cole said.
Asked if the bill could benefit Gateway Pacific if passed, Cole said he had no idea.