A Coastal Community In Washington Contemplates Oil Terminals

A Quinault Indian Nation fishing boat comes in to unload its catch in Grays Harbor, not far from the locations of three proposed oil train-to-ship facilities. Ashley Ahearn/KUOW

A Quinault Indian Nation fishing boat comes in to unload its catch in Grays Harbor, not far from the locations of three proposed oil train-to-ship facilities.
Ashley Ahearn/KUOW

 

By Ahsley Ahearn, KUOW

 

HOQUIAM, Wash. — Grays Harbor, with its deep-water berths and fast access to Pacific Ocean shipping routes, has all the ingredients to be a world-class port.

In some respects, it already is. The Port of Grays Harbor once bustled with shipments of lumber from nearby forests. Next came cars, grains and biofuel. Now, local leaders are warming up to the idea of adding crude oil to the mix.

Roughly 3 billion gallons of crude move from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota into Washington state by rail each year. As oil companies look for the fastest and most cost-effective way to get their product to West Coast refineries, proposals for new oil facilities are popping up around the region.

Washington has five refineries. Four are already receiving oil by rail and the fifth is seeking a permit to do so as well. There are six proposed train-to-ship oil facilities in Washington and two operating on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.

Three of those facilities could be built in Grays Harbor. That could mean more than 700 ships and barges arriving and departing each year and eight oil trains, empty and full, traveling through Grays Harbor County each day.

The proposed facilities present the community with some hard questions about economic growth, environmental risk and quality of life.

Oil On The Move

Forty-five permanent jobs would be created at the proposed Imperium and Westway terminals, with 103 estimated jobs in rail and marine operations, according to a report from the terminal companies. Information on the potential job creation for the third, and largest, of the proposed terminals is not yet available. That terminal is backed by US Development Group. It is in the discussion phase, according to the State Department of Ecology.

“These are projects that will provide jobs and economic development and tax revenue for Grays Harbor,” said Paul Queary, spokesman for Westway and Imperium. “They will help support the existing refinery jobs elsewhere in Washington and they will bring domestically produced oil to U.S. refineries and help maintain and increase U.S. energy independence.”

Imperium and Westway plan to move North Dakota crude on to refineries on the West Coast. U.S. law prohibits the export of domestically-produced crude oil. However, there’s no such restriction on exporting crude brought in from Canada. Canadian crude is already moving through the region  and more could travel through new terminals in the future.

Canadian oil producers are eager to find ways to ship their product beyond North America, suggests Tom Kluza, global head of energy analysis for Oil Price Information Service.

“Really the biggest losers in the oil price slide have been the Canadians,” he said. “They are compromised by their inability to move that to any customers beyond the U.S.”

Despite the recent drop in oil prices, Kluza said the development of infrastructure needed to serve the oil boom in the North American interior — ports, rail capacity and pipelines —  is lagging behind the rate of oil production.  Canadian and U.S. oil producers need access to refineries and terminals in the Northwest, and the regional refineries need access to their product, particularly as output from Alaskan oil fields continues to decline.

“Whether [the Northwest is] the most hospitable is going to depend on the way the local communities and regulators look at the environmental consequences,” he said.

‘What’s a culture worth?’

Thousands of Dungeness crabs rustle and clack as they’re unloaded from the holds of fishing vessels at the Quinault Indian Nation’s docks in Westport, at the mouth of Grays Harbor.

 

Dungeness crab being unloaded at the Quinault Indian Nation docks in Westport, Washington. Almost a quarter of the  tribe is employed in the fishing industry.Dungeness crab being unloaded at the Quinault Indian Nation docks in Westport, Washington. Almost a quarter of the  tribe is employed in the fishing industry. Ashley Ahearn/KUOW

 

The Quinault reservation lies just north of Grays Harbor. Tribal members harvest crab and razor clams along the coast and catch salmon in the ocean and the Chehalis and Humptulips rivers. The tribe opposes the oil terminals. It says an oil spill from a ship or train could close shellfish beds or decimate fish populations. Almost a quarter of the tribe’s 2,900 members are employed in the fishing industry. Ed Johnstone, fishery policy spokesman for the tribe, says the value of that fishery to the Quinault is impossible to quantify.

“What’s a culture worth? What’s a history and tradition worth?” he asked. “You can’t put a number on it.”

 

The Quinault tribe says its treaty-protected  fishing rights are threatened by the risk of an oil spill. Its leaders say they’ll take legal action if necessary to protect the tribe’s fishery.

Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation, says her tribe’s opposition isn’t just about the threat of an oil spill. The global burning of fossil fuels threatens the Quinault’s way of life, she said. Rising sea levels have forced the tribe to move part of its community inland. Last year the ocean broke through and flooded the lower village. The Olympic Mountain’ Anderson Glacier, which feeds the Quinault River, has almost disappeared.

 

A 1936 photo of Anderson Glacier, which feeds the Quinault River.A 1936 photo of Anderson Glacier, which feeds the Quinault River. Asahel Curtis

 

Anderson glacier in 2004. "Our glacier's gone," said Fawn Sharp, president of Quinault Nation.Anderson glacier in 2004. “Our glacier’s gone,” said Fawn Sharp, president of Quinault Nation. Matt Hoffman / Portland State University

“Each area and each region has, I believe, a sacred trust and a sacred duty,” Sharp said, standing beside tribal crabbers as they unloaded their catch. “When you are an elected official you need to make decisions that are based not only on the economics of a decision but the science, the culture, the history.”

 

 

Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation, stands on the docks as tribal crabbers unload their catch. The tribe has vowed to fight the oil train-to-ship terminals  proposed for Grays Harbor.Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation, stands on the docks as tribal crabbers unload their catch. The tribe has vowed to fight the oil train-to-ship terminals  proposed for Grays Harbor. Ashley Ahearn/KUOW

 

The Quinault and other area tribes have often been at odds with non-tribal fishermen. But the non-tribal fishing industry, which employs more than 1,000 people in the area, has joined  the tribes in opposing  the oil terminals.

‘If I hear one more time that this place has great potential, I’m going to puke’

The population of Grays Harbor County hovers around 70,000. Its working-class economy was built on the timber and fishing industries. But today the unemployment rate is higher than the national average. The percentage of residents with a college education lags below the state average.

More than 200 people lost their jobs when Harbor Paper in Hoquiam, Washington shut down in 2014.More than 200 people lost their jobs when Harbor Paper in Hoquiam, Washington shut down in 2014. Ashley Ahearn / KUOW

Al Carter has spent his entire life in Grays Harbor, working in the timber and manufacturing industries and serving as a county commissioner for eight years. He calls himself “an infrastructure guy” – always pushing for the things that make a community appealing to business development and economic growth.

“Sewer, water, roads, bridges, railroads, public safety, public transportation,” Carter counts out on his fingers. “Those are the things that make a community grow and if you build those things, then people will come to those places.”

Carter says it’s been a bumpy ride since the timber and paper industry here crashed. A few years ago the Port of Grays Harbor was courted by the coal industry to build an export terminal.

 

“If I hear one more time that this place has great potential, I’m going to puke,” Carter said, chuckling. “A new group of people come to town every year with a good idea, like, ‘Here’s what we should do!’ and my eyes roll back in my head. It’s like, ‘yeah, OK. Here’s your bucket and your shovel.’”

Carter’s not anti-oil or fossil fuels. He’s concerned about what hundreds of oil trains and ships each year will do to the identity of his community and its potential for future development.

“That much oil, all we’re going to be is an oil terminal. They’re going to dominate our landscape,” Carter said. “Nothing else is going to come here. Nobody else is going to want to come here. There won’t be any room for anything else.”

Tester Begins Hearings on Sex Trafficking in Indian Country

Courtesy Sen. Jon Tester/FlickrAbout 100 people gathered for a listening session with Sen. Jon Tester on August 28 to discuss the increased trafficking of mostly young girls and women in Indian country.

Courtesy Sen. Jon Tester/Flickr
About 100 people gathered for a listening session with Sen. Jon Tester on August 28 to discuss the increased trafficking of mostly young girls and women in Indian country.

 

Suzette Brewer, 9/3/14, Indian Country Today

 

As the trafficking of Native women and girls becomes more prevalent in an expanding radius around the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota, politicians and indigenous leaders are seeking to protect these young victims—and help the survivors heal.

“Human trafficking is a serious issue afflicting our region and much of Indian country. Tribes from Washington State to New York have felt its terrible impact,” said Montana Senator Jon Tester during opening remarks at a listening session he held at Ft. Peck Community College on August 28. “Montana and North Dakota have been especially hard-hit by increases in crime, including human trafficking, due to the explosive influx of people and resources following the oil and gas boom in the Bakken.”

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The listening session was aimed at gathering more information from tribal leaders and local law enforcement regarding the spike in sex trafficking of underage girls, as well as other related crimes that have increased since the oil boom began in the Bakken region. Also among the panelists at Thursday’s session was United States Attorney Mike Cotter, who appeared at the event to voice the growing alarm shared by he and his colleagues in Montana, the Dakotas and Wyoming, about the exploding industry of human trafficking involving mostly Native girls aged 12 to 14 who are being sold for sex.

“If you look around the rural regions of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, you would not expect to find 12-14 year old girls sold for sex on the Internet, or lured by an adult for sex or forced into a life of servitude by predators to sell their bodies to strangers,” Cotter told the audience of about 100 tribal leaders, community members and law enforcement. “It is hard to imagine but it is here in our region, and this corruption occurs with too much frequency and is more prevalent than one would imagine.”

Cotter underscored the fact that human trafficking is a global, national and regional problem that has snared millions of men, women and children into being trafficked for labor and commercial sex. Situated on the energy-rich Williston Basin, the Bakken Oil Patch is located in North Dakota. Since the energy boom in that state began, crime rates in the multi-state region have also spiked, including sexual violence, domestic violence, multiple murders and an increase in the use of meth and other drugs.

“We’re dealing with drug cartels, we’re dealing with people who don’t come to the door with a shotgun, they come to the door with a sub-machine gun,” said Tester. “And it’s very different. A lot of law enforcement agencies have seen a real uptick in crime, but haven’t seen an uptick in police officers or staffing or training.”

Typically, traffickers target mostly young girls who average between 12 and 14 years in age and are usually from low-income homes where one or both parents are absent. Additionally, many of the girls are already victims of child abuse and neglect, and many are struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. In South Dakota alone, Tester said, at least half of the sex trafficking victims are Native girls. Many of the girls, he said, are lured during times of vulnerability, when they may be homeless or struggling in other ways.

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Tribal leaders across the region have also begun to feel the burden of the crime rates in their own communities, which are often underfunded, understaffed and ill-equipped to take on Mexican cartels, who they say have infiltrated the region and are well-organized and armed with heavy weaponry, including machine guns, which heretofore have been a rarity in the Northern Plains. The Fort Peck Indian Reservation, for example, is located approximately two and a half hours west of the Bakken region. Still, their tribal chairman said, his community is feeling the downside of the boom.

“Because of our proximity to the Bakken oil field, we are already seeing the negative effects of oil and gas development without any financial benefits,” Chairman Rusty Stafne of the Fort Peck Tribes of Montana, told the audience. “Washington has been quick to promote the exploitation of natural resources, but slow to provide the necessary funding for the increased demand on our services and infrastructure.”

“Adding to the problem is the lack of treatment available to survivors,” said Tester. “The survivors are often children or young adults from impoverished homes with broken family ties. Help for them is rarely available in the Native community—or even within a manageable drive.”

The negative impacts of the rise in crime is also being felt among tribes in South Dakota and Wyoming, both of whom have had an increase in the trafficking of their young girls.

“Energy development is bringing tremendous new opportunities to the region, but with the good comes the bad,” said Tester. “Many of the small towns on reservations and surrounding areas are being inundated with new businesses and more jobs, but also with infrastructure challenges and bad actors attracted to the profits and free-wheeling environment.”

Cotter said the Department of Justice launched the Human Trafficking Enhanced Enforcement Initiative in 2011. In 2012, the Montana U.S. Attorney’s office created the Montana Human Trafficking Task Force to confront the “complex, multi-dimensional crime of human trafficking, which includes sex crimes, violent crimes, immigration crimes, labor exploitation, fraud, money laundering and organized crime.

Among the attendees were Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Tex Hall, Montana State Director of Indian Affairs Jason Smith, Roosevelt County Sheriff Freedom Crawford and Annie Daumiller of the Annie Casey Foundation.

“As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I am very aware of the economic and social challenges facing the tribes in the region. And it’s understandable that no tribe is prepared to deal with the rapid changes affecting the Bakken,” said Tester. “Tribal police departments lack the resources to investigate and detain human trafficking offenders, most of whom are non-Native. By no fault of their own, departments are often ill-equipped to root out the players in trafficking rings that can span reservation, state, and national boundaries.”

Tester added that even though the passage of the Violence Against Women Act had allowed tribes more authority to prosecute crimes committed on Indian reservations by non-Indians, “there is so much more to do.”

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/09/03/tester-begins-hearings-sex-trafficking-indian-country-156723?page=0%2C1