Tag: Maria Cantwell
With industrial safety in the news after the horrific April 17, 2013 fertilizer plant blast in West, Texas, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen and other members of the Washington congressional delegation are pressing for results from a federal investigation into the April 10, 2010 refinery explosion that killed seven Tesoro workers in Anacortes.
Here is a link to the letter that the Everett Democrat sent to Rafael Moure-Eraso, chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, also signed by U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.
UPDATE: After he saw this blog post, State Rep. Jeff Morris, D-40th, alerted us to the fact that he also sent a letter to the Chemical Safety Board dated March 28, calling for the board to get moving and finish its report on the Tesoro tragedy.
The Washington Department of Labor and Industries fined Tesoro $2.4 million in October, 2010, alleging “willful violations.”
The company appealed that fine,
but my efforts to determine the result of that appeal have not yet borne fruit. UPDATE: Jan Raish, spokeswoman at the state’s Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, said the appeal is still pending. The state and the company have been filing motions in the case but no hearing has yet been held. Raish said the typical case gets through the board in less than a year, but this one is a lot more complex.
The federal Chemical Safety Board apparently did announce some investigation findings in April 2011. In this Reuters report via Insurance Journal, the board blamed an improperly-maintained heat exchanger for the blast. The company denied that finding.
By John Stark
U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have joined Whatcom County’s two U.S. House representatives, Rick Larsen and Suzan DelBene in urging President Barack Obama to designate a national monument in the San Juan Islands.
Here is the joint press release from the four Democrats, which includes the text of their letter to Obama:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a joint letter sent Monday, the Northwest Washington Congressional delegation called on President Barack Obama to take action to conserve close to 1,000 acres of federally owned land on the San Juan Islands with a Presidential National Monument designation.
U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representatives Rick Larsen (D-WA-2), and Suzan DelBene (D-WA-1) urged President Obama to make such a designation prior to the departure of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar later this year. Salazar has led the Administration’s efforts on conserving the federally owned lands in the San Juan Islands, including holding multiple community forums in Washington state over the last several years. Salazar announced on January 16 that he would leave the post and return to Colorado later this year.
In the letter to President Obama, Cantwell, Murray, Larsen and DelBene also announced their intention to reintroduce legislation in the 113th Congress that would conserve the land through a Congressional National Conservation Area (NCA) designation. Currently, there is no long-term comprehensive management plan for these lands, which the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees.
“As the 113th Congress and your second term commence, we write to renew our support for the dual-track approach to conserving certain federally owned land parcels in the San Juan Islands that are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM),” Cantwell, Murray, Larsen and DelBene wrote. “While we will continue to push for the swift passage of our legislation to conserve these areas, we want to make clear that we believe a National Monument designation offers another pathway that could expedite our shared goals. Before Secretary Salazar leaves office, we urge you to consider designating a National Monument in the San Juan Islands, bringing his and our efforts to fruition.”
The citizen-driven effort to preserve these lands has generated widespread, passionate support from the community. In February 2012, Cantwell, Salazar and members of the community held a public meeting in Anacortes to discuss federal efforts to preserve the land. In July 2011, Cantwell and Larsen held a community listening session in Friday Harbor to hear feedback on the effort to create a National Conservation Area. In April 2011, Salazar held a meeting in Washington state with state and local leaders to discuss San Juan Islands conservation efforts.
Permanent protection of the approximately 1,000 acres of federally owned lands would ensure it remains in its current state and publicly accessible, despite higher use. The federally owned lands include over 60 locations that range from pine forests to lighthouses and are visited by more than 70,000 people every year.
“A National Monument designation will protect the sensitive and beautiful BLM lands in the San Juan Islands and would make a lasting impact of the hundreds of hours of service made by local volunteers to care for the land,” said Tom Reeve, a member of the Islanders for the San Juan Islands National Conservation Area. “We applaud the leadership of our Congressional delegation and urge President Obama to act now to meet the call of San Juan islanders to preserve these cherished lands for future generations of islanders and visitors.”
Full text of the letter is below.
January 28, 2013
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
As the 113th Congress and your second term commence, we write to renew our support for the dual-track approach to conserving certain federally owned land parcels in the San Juan Islands that are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). While we intend to reintroduce legislation to protect these cherished lands permanently through a Congressional National Conservation Area designation, we fully support your alternative efforts to conserve these same lands through a Presidential National Monument designation (an authority that Congress granted as part of the Antiquities Act of 1906) if such a designation ensures the same level of community involvement as the legislative effort.
The BLM manages approximately 1,000 acres in the San Juan Islands that are important wildlife habitat and draw thousands of tourists every year. Secretary of the Interior Salazar has been particularly helpful to our efforts to preserve these lands. We greatly appreciated his visits in April 2011 and February 2012 to engage local stakeholders and discuss the best way to protect and preserve public access to these unique federal parcels. His willingness to listen to our local constituents and their concerns about the legislation and National Monument designation was instrumental in gaining local support for the dual-track approach. The volunteer community group that first developed the idea of a National Conservation Area, in addition to local, state and tribal stakeholders, now supports a National Monument designation as well. While we will continue to push for the swift passage of our legislation to conserve these areas, we want to make clear that we believe a National Monument designation offers another pathway that could expedite our shared goals.
Before Secretary Salazar leaves office, we urge you to consider designating a National Monument in the San Juan Islands, bringing his and our efforts to fruition. Thank you for your interest in the San Juan Islands. We look forward to working with you to protect these areas for future generations.
By John Stark
U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen. will be at Squalicum Boathouse this morning (Thursday, Nov. 1) at 11:15 to discuss their “Jobs for Washington” program.
In case you just joined us, all four are Democrats. Cantwell and Larsen are campaigning for reelection. Inslee is in a close raise to fill the seat of departing Gov. Chris Gregoire, facing Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna.
Campaign aides say the Bellingham stop will focus on federal support for higher education, and Western Washington University students will be there to talk about Pell Grants and related programs that help students and their families pay for college.
State Sen. Mike Baumgartner, a Spokane Republican, is challenging U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell for a U.S. Senate seat, touting an extensive resume of overseas experience that seems to make him a natural for the Foreign Affairs Committee if he pulls off the upset of the century and thwarts Cantwell’s bid for a third term.
His international experiences are so extensive, in fact, that I’m not going to try to summarize them here. If you want the details, read them on Baumgartner’s website.
Suffice to say that since he was 12, Baumgartner has visited 70 countries. Most recently, he has served with the State Department as an economics officer in Iraq, and as an advisor with a private contractor that worked with U.S. armed forces on opium eradication in Afghanistan.
“The U.S. Senate is really the foreign policy advisory board for the country,” Baumgartner said in a recent interview.
As he sees it, too few Senators are qualified for that role.
His experiences have made him skeptical of using American troops for “nation-building” in Afghanistan. He called nation-building “not a realistic goal.”
He described U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East as “confused,” and added, “I think we have too many troops in Afghanistan right now.”
America’s leaders have insulated the country from the cost of the wars, beginning with George W. Bush, Baumgartner said. He faulted Bush for “not taking the country to war,” cutting taxes and urging Americans to go on doing what they were doing while the troops did the fighting. The Bush administration was guilty of a “deficits don’t matter” attitude in cutting taxes and waging war at the same time.
Americans should have been asked to shoulder the financial burden, “even if he (Bush) had just put a penny on the gas tax to remind folks,” Baumgartner said.
But he hastened to add that he is not advocating tax increases today.
Asked if he favors military intervention to shut down Iran’s nuclear program, Baumgartner was skeptical.
“The reality with Iran is that we have a lot of bad options,” he said. “If something’s going to be done, it has to have more chance of success than failure.”
Although — like Barack Obama — he believes that intervention should not be ruled out, he also observed that those who are calling for a U.S. military strike may not have thought it through.
“Presidential candidates have a natural impetus to look tough on these things,” Baumgartner said.
On other issues, he portrayed himself as a friend of higher education in Olympia who wants to take that issue to the U.S. Senate.
In the State Legislature, Baumgartner said he has advocated the creation of dedicated funds to support the university and college system. He suggests a law that would give higher education one cent of the sales tax collected on each dollar.
In the nation’s capital, Baumgartner said he would advocate for strong federal financial support for higher education. He says the U.S. college and university system has been a traditional source of strength for our economy.
“Why we would walk away from that system now is beyond me,” he said.
On energy issues, Baumgartner sounds a bit more like a Republican. He favors more domestic production of petroleum, and wants to see the XL Pipeline built to carry Canadian tar sands oil to U.S. refineries.
He pronounces federal spending unsustainable, and pledges to make reform of entitlement programs a top priority if he is elected.
He believes in a means test for Social Security benefits, meaning that wealthy retirees would get less. He also favors an eventual rollback of the eligibility age for benefits, but postponing that long enough to avoid breaking promises to those now nearing retirement.
Asked if that would be fair to the millions of workers whose jobs involve physical labor, Baumgartner agreed that was a legitimate issue, and there should be a safety net for those who are no longer physically able to continue working.
In a press release issued Tuesday, March 7, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell said she is pushing a measure to “prioritize intermodal freight transportation infrastructure planning and development to support a growing trade economy.”
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, during a Wednesday, Feb. 15 meeting with Chinese Vice President Xi Jingping, urged that China change its rules to allow import of Washington-grown pears.
Turns out that China does not allow the import of any U.S. pears. Who knew? Here’s the press release from Cantwell’s office, with perhaps-helpful links inserted by me:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during a meeting with Chinese Vice President Xi Jingping in Washington, D.C., U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) urged China to further open its market to American pears. Washington state produces more pears than any other state in the nation, with a total crop value of $189 million in 2010. (Above link provides Washington Post account of Xi’s DC visit–JS)
Xi, who is likely to be the next leader of China, met with U.S. Senators and Congressmen on Capitol Hill today. Cantwell encouraged him to move forward on a deal that would enable Washington pears to be sold in China.
China currently does not allow imports of American pears but the United States allows imports of Chinese Ya and fragrant pears. The two countries have had discussions about opening the pear market for nearly two decades to allow the import of fresh sand pears from China and the export of U.S. pears to China. However, since last November, talks between the two countries to open the pear market have gained momentum, and it would be a benefit to Washington pear producers to have the market open by this pear season. Chinese and American officials are still discussing the details of mitigation measures for pests and disease.
“Agriculture is the backbone of Washington state’s economy, supporting 160,000 jobs and contributing 12 percent to the state’s economy,” said Cantwell. “Opening the Chinese market to American pears would support Washington producers and bolster our thriving export economy. I’m hopeful that Vice President Xi will work with American officials to ensure market access for American pears.”
Opening up the Chinese market to American pears would not only help Washington farmers, it would also provide more business for the state’s ports and cargo transporters. Washington’s ports and waterways are the closest to Asia and Alaska of all U.S. ports. Nearly $13 billion in food and agricultural products were exported through Washington ports in 2010, the third largest total in the United States.
After weeks of excruciating, sometimes nauseating political maneuvering over the debt ceiling, a deal has been struck. Or has it? According to this story in the Washington Post, GOP Presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney has come out in opposition to the deal, a top Tea Party official has denounced it, and Michelle Bachman says she will vote no.
(As of 10 a.m. PDT, I see no comment yet from our own delegation, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen and Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.)
But amid all the commentary about who scored a political victory and who suffered a political defeat– written by D.C. reporters who cover national government as though it were a sporting event–it’s pretty hard to sort out how this deal will impact our economy and the people who depend on it.
Who could defend a government that depends on ever-increasing levels of debt to finance its operations? That approach, on a household level, caused the Great Recession we’re still trying to survive. It would, in the not t00 distant future, lead to a disaster in government financing as well.
But the relatively sharp cuts in government spending that are now in the works may have some awfully unpleasant side effects too. People who think this deal will help revive the economy may be in for a shock. As of this moment the Dow Jones is down another 100 points.
A public relations consultant for Lummi Nation has provided us with a copy of a letter from the chairmen of four other Northwest tribes to U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, as well as U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, concerning the drawn-out negotiations over a new lease for the county’s ferry to Lummi Island.
“As a federally recognized Indian tribe, the Lummi Nation has jurisdiction and the right to govern its own lands,” the letter says. “In giving Whatcom County a deadline for resolving safety issues on reservation roads and waters that result from the operation of the county’s Lummi Island ferry, the Lummi Nation was acting within its sovereign right.”
The letter notes that islanders and their backers have mounted a letter writing campaign to the congressional delegation asking them to intervene in the matter, and asks the senators and congressman to be wary.
“In our view, any federal intervention that seeks to force the Lummi Nation to use its land or resources in a manner without their consent would be a breach of the federal trust responsibilities and existing federal law,” the letter says.
A few years ago, Whatcom County officials had expected to extend their lease of the ferry dock on the Lummi reservation by exercising a 25-year renewal option, enforceable by binding arbitration to determine renewal terms.
But although tribal officials signed a 1988 document that contained the renewal option, tribal officials contend that the lease is not binding because it was never approved by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, and county officials are not challenging that contention.
The signers of the letter include Nooksack Indian Tribe Chairman Bob Kelly, a former Whatcom County Council member; Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Chairman Brian Cladoosby; Tulalip Tribes Chairman Mel Sheldon; and Stillaguamish Tribe Chairman Shawn Yanity.
The county and the approximately 900 island residents face an April 10 deadline for resolution of the matter. More negotiations are scheduled for April 6.
Lummi Nation has released a written statement responding to the letter sent to the Bureau of Indian Affairs by U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, expressing concern over the statemate in negotiations beween Lummi Nation and Whatcom County over a new lease for the mainland Lummi Island Ferry dock on the Lummi Reservation.
The statement reiterates tribal concerns about traffic safety and the need for a hefty county expenditure on safety improvements in the area as part of any new lease deal.
The statement also refers to a 2009 traffic study prepared for both the county and tribe. In general, the study tends to downplay the safety issues arising from ferry operations.
The emailed statement also includes an interesting chronology of ferry history from the tribe’s perspective. Among other things, the chronology mentions unsuccessful efforts to get funding for traffic safety improvements.
Here is the text of the tribe’s statement, which is silent on the question of whether the tribe is prepared to take steps to stop ferry operations after April 10, 2011, when the tribe’s deadline expires:
The Lummi Nation appreciates Congressman Larsen, Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell engaging in this complex, longstanding issue.
For ten years the Lummi Nation has worked to resolve these issues and obtain a lease that is fair for everyone.
Safety is of paramount concern to the Lummi Nation.
There are numerous safety issues associated with the ferry traffic through the Lummi reservation: increased traffic volume, increased speeding that has contributed to fatalities, delayed access to the roadway because of traffic volume, and fear that our families and our community feel for their safety.
There are numerous safety issues at the side of the ferry dock that is on the Lummi Reservation: ferry line-up interferes with fishermen’s ability to exercise Treaty rights, and ferry line-up impacts pedestrians, including school children and families trying to go to the grocery store. Treaty-protected fishermen often find the boat ramp blocked by the ferry line-up, and ferry wake has damaged boats and led to injuries.
“At the Lummi Nation’s request Whatcom County has studied traffic safety and boat safety related to the side of the Gooseberry Point ferry dock, and these studies identified simple solutions that improve safety for everyone,” Lummi Nation Chairman Cliff Cultee said. “The Lummi Nation has participated in negotiations with Whatcom County for 10 years. The county need only review the findings in its own studies to understand our safety concerns.”
Whatcom County Executive Pete Kremen’s effort to get federal help in resolving the Lummi Island ferry stalemate appears to be bearing fruit.
Both Kremen and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, have shared a March 2 letter sent to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, over the signatures of Larsen and U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, concerning the ferry situation.
The letter, addressed to BIA regional director Stanley Speaks in Portland, Ore., seems mild enough. The three say they are “concerned about this matter,” and they ask the BIA to respond to the county and provide “guidance and clarification on the BIA’s role as it relates to the lease of the tidelands held in trust.”
In an accompanying press release, Larsen uses somewhat stronger language:
“The bottom line is, we can not cut off access to the island for residents who depend on the ferry to go to school, shop for groceries or commute to work. Shutting down the ferry is not a solution to this problem. Negotiations on this issue must resume so a productive solution to this issue can be reached without hurting the local community.”
By coincidence, both Kremen and Lummi Indian Business Council Chairman Clifford Cultee are in Washington D.C., and Kremen said he expects to meet with Cultee on Friday, March 4 to discuss the ferry situation.
Up to now, the BIA has shown no inclination to get involved in the ferry issue. Agency officials have said their only role would be to review any new lease agreement between Lummi Nation and the county before it is approved. Here’s an earlier story on the BIA’s role.
In a story that will be published in the next few days, I take a quick look at the potential impact of increased rail traffic through Bellingham and Whatcom County, south of Cherry Point, if SSA Marine succeeds in establishing a new marine cargo terminal on vacant industrial land south of the BP Cherry Point crude oil dock.
It’s early yet. If all goes as SSA hopes, the permitting process will take two years, and construction will take two more years. During that permitting process, the impact of rail traffic will be studied, as will other sensitive issues such as the shrinking population of Cherry Point herring.
As of now, the terminal is projected to have a capacity of 25 million tons of (?) per year, and a terminal that size would need five or six trains a day to keep it supplied. The only way to get a train to Cherry Point, other than via Canada, is through Bellingham–and Ferndale.
Those trains would come back south on the same route after unloading.
Existing train traffic is said to be 24 to 28 trains per day.
As of now, coal looks like the most probable mainstay of such a facility, but since the terminal isn’t in business as of now, it’s possible that some other cargo could rise to prominence by the time the facility is built–if it is. SSA’s Bob Watters says construction will take two years, after the two-year permitting process that SSA plans to start this March.
I fully expect to be covering this project until I retire, unless I’m transferred to prep sports.
Many of you have noticed that we already have coal trains rumbling through town, on their way to the Deltaport terminal at Roberts Bank, B.C. I’m wondering if those of you who live close to the tracks have had any issues with coal dust. Give me a call at 715-2274 or email at email@example.com if you want to talk about it.
Footnote: SSA apparently has friends in high places. Aside from the fact that Goldman Sachs is a major investor in its parent firm, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell lobbied Chinese officials on behalf of SSA’s proposal to build a terminal in China, according to a State Department cable obtained by the New York Times via Wikileaks.
I found that tidbit via Longshore & Shipping News.
from John Stark:
Sen. Maria Cantwell said the FCC’s net neutrality rules approved in a 3-1 vote Tuesday, Dec. 21 don’t go far enough, and she promised to introduce legislation to improve those rules.
From Cantwell’s office:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, (Dec. 21) Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) released the following statement after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 to issue the final report and order on its open Internet proceeding, which includes rules on net neutrality.
“While the open Internet order the Commissioners voted on today represents an improvement over the initial draft, I am disappointed and concerned that the rules don’t do enough to make sure the Internet remains a source of American innovation and economic growth,” said Senator Cantwell. “I will introduce net neutrality legislation next Congress to ensure the Internet remains open and free.”
For more information on Senator Cantwell’s recent efforts to urge a bold net neutrality plan, see her December 1st statement on the FCC’s initial draft of the rules. Also see Cantwell’s December 10th letter she sent to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski urging the Commission to consider a number of specific changes to strengthen the final rules, and Cantwell’s letters to the Chairman from June 17, 2010 and October 21, 2009. Senator Cantwell is a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation which has jurisdiction over the FCC and telecommunication issues.