October 9, 2013 at 8:32 AM
Update, 1:45 p.m. on Oct. 10:
The Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports has issued the following statement:
“The statements made by the individual in the recording do not reflect the values or the views of the Alliance or its members. As companies and members of the community, who operate and have employees in this region, we’re committed to a respectful and productive dialogue with the citizens of Washington and of the Northwest around these issues.
“It’s unfortunate that a blogger would eavesdrop on a private conversation rather than conducting a straight-forward interview. The Alliance welcomes a robust and straight-forward discussion on these issues. We support the expansion of ports because it will increase our trade with Asia and grow our economy. Investment from coal makes this expansion of trade possible, and American coal will continue to be an important fuel source for this country and the world for the foreseeable future.”
A top spokeswoman for the push to expand Washington state coal exports joked about Seattle in a private discussion about strategy with a boss last month, according to a recording published this week.
The spokeswoman, Lauri Hennessey, apparently told Arch Coal senior vice president Matt Ferguson that the Seattle area is “so weird” and called the situation here “wacky.”
She also said that somebody from Peabody Energy once scolded her for telling a Seattle journalist that the coal companies are concerned about climate change.
Arch Coal and Peabody Energy are among several companies pushing for a trio of proposals to expand coal exports from the Pacific Northwest to Asia. In Washington state, terminals have been proposed for Cherry Point in Whatcom County and Longview in Cowlitz County.
Hennessy, vice president at Edelman and spokeswoman for the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports, was apparently recorded last month at Platt’s 36th Annual Coal Marketing Days in Philadelphia.
The recorded exchange between industry insiders was not particularly groundbreaking. Still, local environmental groups pounced on the recording.
“Who is coal flack Lauri Hennessey and why should be we believe anything she says?,” wrote Richard Ellmeyer in an email to supporters. “We SHOULDN’T.”
June 28, 2013 at 3:42 PM
By Staff Reporter Colin Campbell
The parking lot of the Bellevue Burgermaster was filled Friday morning with people hungry, not for burgers, but for state transportation funding.
A coalition of local elected officials and businesspeople gathered at the fast food joint near I-520 to again urge the state Senate to pass a $10 billion transportation tax package that would fund local roads, bridges and transit services.
After a drawn-out process, state legislators Thursday reached a tentative $33.6 billion two-year budget to avert a government shutdown. One likely point of argument in the transportation bill will be the inclusion of a light rail in the Columbia River crossing. Senate Republicans oppose funding the light-rail line, which they say is a waste of potential road space.
The theme of the Friday news conference — “moving ahead together” — was clear, and the handful of speakers who took the podium didn’t miss the opportunity to directly compare the state economy to a road, requiring investing and upkeep.
King County Executive Dow Constantine, thanked the Democrat-controlled state House of Representatives for approving the package, which includes a 10-cent gas tax increase, a $20 vehicle fee increase and a 1.5 percent MVET renewal fee. He called on the Senate, which has a Republican majority, to do the same, asking them to “join us and get on the bus and pave the way to prosperity.”
Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis cited his credentials as a fiscal conservative and said the bill isn’t so much about spending money as it is about investing it. He said the coalition of groups was encouraging and sending a clear message.
“It is good fiscal sense,” Lewis said. “We need to have the partnership we see here before us. I’ve talked to labor; I’ve talked to businesses; I’ve talked to the cities. Cities from the east side to the west. The farmers in Yakima need this to happen just as much as the people in downtown Seattle.”
“We call on that one more step of bold leadership from our senators to represent us and to move our state forward,” he added.
Bob Donegan, president and CEO of Ivar’s restaurants, put the need in more concrete terms. He said one of his truck drivers used to be able to make three trips to and from the company’s Mukilteo facility in Snohomish County, where its chowder is made, but because of worsening traffic, he now can only make two.
Put simply, Donegan said, “If we want chowder, we have to have a transportation bill.”
Organizers said they chose Burgermaster for the 20-minute event because the backdrop, a loud bridge construction site, perfectly illustrated the importance of transportation investment. Maud Daudon, president of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, who emcee’d the conference, thanked the various groups represented, as well as the burger restaurant for hosting it.
But one Burgermaster waitress, looking on from inside, wasn’t amused at the choice of location.
“It’s frustrating,” she said, gesturing to the group through one of the restaurant’s windows. “It’s a business, not a banquet hall.”
June 25, 2013 at 11:53 AM
House Transportation Chairwoman Judy Clibborn released details Tuesday of a new $10 billion transportation tax package that would increase the state gas tax by 10.5 cents per gallon.
Under the proposal, the gas tax would increase 6 cents per gallon on July 1 of this year and an additional 4.5 cents per gallon on July 1, 2014, Clibborn said.
In addition to the gas tax, the proposal would increase various weight and title fees, including a 15 percent boost in weight fees for freight trucks of more than 10,000 pounds. It also includes local option taxes, including a motor vehicle excise tax of up to 1.5 percent of vehicle value in counties with more than 1 million people, if approved by voters.
The package allocates nearly $3.3 billion for major projects including work on Interstate 405, Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90, and a new Columbia River crossing on Interstate 5. Nearly $1.1 billion of it would go toward preservation and maintenance of highways and bridges.
More than $500 million would go to support public transportation, and millions more would be spent on bicycle and pedestrian paths and safe routes to school.
Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, says she’s had assurances from Democratic leaders in the House that the transportation tax package will get a vote on the floor by Wednesday. She’s not sure if the Republican-controlled majority in the Senate, which disagrees with many provisions in the package, will bring it up for a vote.
The biggest area of disagreement is funding for the Columbia River crossing. Republicans oppose including light rail in the project, arguing, in part, that rail is a waste of potential road space.
They also maintain the addition of light rail restricts the height of the proposed bridge, making it too low for upstream companies to move cargo and equipment underneath.
Clibborn said she expects changes if the measure clears the Senate. “I’ve told my side it will not look the same,” she said.
Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee has said he wants lawmakers to remain in town until a transportation package is passed.
The Legislature also still has to negotiate and pass a state operating budget.
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