Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

The Washington county election that could impact coal exports in BC

As the U.S. phases out coal-fired electricity plants, coal producers are looking to get their product to Asian markets via west coast ports.

Including ports in British Columbia. A proposal to build a new coal export facility on the Fraser River is facing growing opposition from climate activists. Last week, a group led by Voters Taking Action on Climate Change (VTACC) demonstrated in front of the offices of Port Metro Vancouver, the authority that will ultimately approve or deny the plan. VTACC is demanding public hearings for the project.

The issue of coal exports is heating up south of the border as well, as The Tyee reported in this three-part series.

And an article this week in the National Journal flags how one local election in Washington's Whatcom County is "shaping up to have a profound, even global, impact" on the coal industry and trade relations with China.

A proposed $600 million port, the Gateway Pacific Terminal, would be the largest of a series of export terminals along the Pacific Coast. Its fate rests with the Whatcom County Council, made up of seven elected representatives. Four of those representatives will be determined in a race this November.

According to the article:

"Over the next two years, the seven-member board will play an outsized role in Gateway's fate, voting on two crucial siting permits which, if approved, will pave the way for the terminal's construction. If the council rejects the permits, it could freeze the project for years, if not permanently."

This means that Whatcom County voters could have a direct influence on whether or not the project proceeds. However, the nature of the council is "semi-judicial" meaning that candidates can't say whether they would vote for or against the terminal.

Michael Lilliquist, a city council member in Bellingham told National Journal correspondent Coral Davenport that "even the candidates who have a clear opinion about it can't say what they think" and conscientious voters will have to pay attention to buzzwords. "Do they talk about prosperity. . . and jobs?" asked Lilliquist. "Do they talk about sustainability and climate change?"

What will this election mean for the fate of British Columbia's coal export industry?

Kevin Washbrook, co-director of VTACC told The Tyee that if the council votes in favour of the Gateway Pacific Terminal, it could mean there will be less pressure to export U.S. coal out of Metro Vancouver.

On the other hand, if they vote against the project, says Washbrook, it would likely mean more pressure to "ramp up exports in every other possible location."

Colleen Kimmet reports for The Tyee.

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus