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Analysis: Environmental Science

Analyzing Environmental Justice
By Anthony Rosario-Licerio

“In Washington, the battle for public control of the waterfront was largely a battle against the railroads.  The arrival of transcontinental railroads in the 1870s was essential to Washington Territory’s development, but to get the transcontinental lines civic leaders gave away large swathes of harbor land to the railroads, handing them a stranglehold over the region’s trade and commerce. Railroad companies used their control over wharf availability and rates to fill their own trains with cargo, rather than to promote trade and make it easier for the area’s merchants and farmers to import and export goods” -Kit Oldham, historylink.org

Washington State now operates 75 municipality owned port districts. These districts are charged with all aspects of economic growth which may include buying, leasing and selling property; operating trade and export trading companies, and/or providing air and water pollution control works. Authorizing cities to manage resources that promote trade and commerce shifted responsibility on the surrounding communities to decide the operating future of their port district. 

Washington’s trade-dependant economy has made the state a prime target for the fossil fuel industry. Proposed projects include a methanol plant in Kalama, WA, liquefied natural gas plant in Tacoma, WA, and the now defunct oil terminal in Vancouver. These proposed projects pose a threat to the surrounding communities and Washington’s water system.

The proposed oil terminal in Vancouver, WA would have moved hundreds of gallons of crude oil by rail through waterfront communities and would have been built in the working class neighborhood of Fruit Valley. Fruit Valley is a working class neighborhood with 85.7% of the student population coming from low income families and 48.3% of the students being of  hispanic descent. Support to block the oil terminal came from community members of the Fruit Valley neighborhood, Columbia Riverkeepers, Sierra Club, and the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union and on January 9, 2018 The Port Vancouver’s Board of Commissioners voted to end the oil terminal lease 3-0. 

Assuming we can stop placing inherent value on human existence, develop a land ethic, and move away from a conquerors mentality the possibility of a sustainable society is there. For example, Minot, North Dakota from my personal observation is still dependent on propane as a source of energy for homes when the alternative energy (wind) would prevent brain dump and provide the city a renewable source of energy.  In conclusion, I see what is possible when countries like Germany and China are leading the way and taking on the initiative.

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