25 speakers oppose fracking sand

Despite emotional testimony, port commission votes to seek bids for new $2 million warehouse

rboone@theolympian.comMarch 25, 2014 

Longshoremen at the Port of Olympia offload bags of ceramic proppant from the Star Dieppe Friday, Oct. 5, 2012. The ceramic proppant transits through Olympia on the way to the midwest for use in Hydraulic fracking.

JOE BARRENTINE/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The Port of Olympia commission voted 2-1 Monday night to seek bids for a new marine terminal warehouse. But before that happened, commission members got an earful from more than 20 residents who testified against it.

It wasn’t the warehouse structure they were concerned about, but rather that ceramic proppants — known more commonly as fracking sand — would be stored inside it. The product and the oil extraction process have drawn the ire of environmentalists nationwide.

The port’s existing warehouse is at capacity. It’s filled with fracking sand and other cargo, such as steel coil that needs to be kept indoors and out of the rain.

The proposed 50,000-square-foot new warehouse would handle similar cargo. It would be built between the port’s current warehouse and administrative building.

Monday’s standing-room-only meeting was so crowded that port staff members were asked to give up their seats.

It got off to a highly charged start.

A man, perhaps in his 20s and wearing a tie-dye T-shirt, held a sign, one side of which stated: “Fracking poisons water.” He then began to loudly state his opinions before several in the audience asked him to quiet down and take a seat. One person threatened to call Tumwater police.

The man eventually stood in the back of the room with his sign, occasionally interjecting his opinions while others testified.

Public comment typically lasts 30 minutes, but it was extended another 45 minutes Monday.

In all, about 25 people testified, raising concerns about the effects of fracking on the environment and climate change.

Jim Lazar of Olympia held up an inflatable globe as part of his testimony, pointing out various countries on it, such as the Maldives and Bangladesh, that are expected to “disappear under water” as a result of climate change.

Some also testified in support of the warehouse, but they were in the minority.

Keith Bausch, president of ILWU, Local 47, testified that he wanted to reinforce the local’s support for the new warehouse.

“The local is 100 percent behind it,” Bausch said.

The port is under contract to handle the fracking sand and is obligated to move it, he said.

Commissioners George Barner and Bill McGregor voted to approve the plan to seek bids, but Commissioner Sue Gunn — who has a doctorate in geology and campaigned on wanting to transport environmentally sustainable cargo through the port — voted against it.

Gunn also explained her no vote in a PowerPoint presentation, backing up her argument with excerpts from scientific and news reports about fracking.

The new warehouse is estimated to cost $1.8 million to $2.2 million. General obligation bonds, which were issued by the port last year, would pay for the cost of construction.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 rboone@theolympian.com

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