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Latest
Ore not: Plan to slag our harbor stinks
Written by John Wiebe for the Times Standard   

3/4/15

About 10 years ago, Calpine Corporation planned to locate a gigantic transfer terminal for liquid natural gas (LNG), across Humboldt Bay from Eureka. Twice a week, super tankers would dock in Humboldt Bay to discharge huge volumes of LGN. During the operation, the general area, including a considerable portion of the Bay, would be under military-style lockdown. Why? In 2004, a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission report provided this nightmare scenario: if the warmed LNG from one super tanker ignited, it would produce a fire a mile wide and result in second- degree burns two miles away. (We would probably be just fine in Trinidad unless the wind was from the south, and until smoldering refugees came staggering up Scenic Drive from Eureka.) Most of us were pleased that Calpine found different locations for its terminals on a bigger bay.


Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, in the 1980s, when my wife, Carol and I lived and worked there, was the hottest place on earth. Enormous quantities of waste LNG was flared off on the northern boarder of the immense Rub al-Khali. In spite of the country-club atmosphere in the ARAMCO town, our stay might have been cut short if we had known more about the dangers of LNG. Terrorists do not keep their heads in Arabia. Sharia law is draconian; beheadings are community events. I got in on one, quite by accident. Let me assure you, however, that unless it’s your own, an oil-town barbecued with LNG is far less troubling than a routine decapitation.


In Humboldt County, mega-development schemes often meet with well-informed and strident opposition. We are not likely to allow international thugs and their local toadies to auction off this incredibly beautiful biome! Other settings in North America may not be as fortunate and defiant.


On Capitol Hill, the Senate, like the House, will probably cave in to the corporatedictates and pass “HR-351”.


With weaker “checks and balances,” our restructured Congress evidently intends to give Big Buggering Oil (BBO) the green light to cut North America in half with Keystone XL Pipeline and a free rein to frack the fragile planet!


Let’s get back to this curve of the coast where there’s an element of hope. You probably heard that Fernald, another huge, slavering corporation, also checked us out, probably convinced that the brush monkeys in Humboldt County would be proud to have the world’s biggest coalburning power plant on the Samoa Peninsula. So what if millions of tons of filthy particulate matter was pooped from the furnaces into the planet’s purest air; at least for a short time, we’d have more jobs, right? Like Calpine, Fernald moved on. Local opposition was strong and Humboldt Baykeeper is on guard!


Now — we’re home free — right? The spoilers have given up. Wait! Take nothing for granted. On Feb. 12, the US Mine Corp. presented a sketchy proposal for processing gold ore on Samoa Peninsula to the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District commissioners. Evidently the commission, instead of giving US Mine the boot, gave it 90 days to get its act together.


Perhaps we might eventually agree that greed, like gold, is good! If US Mine begins operations, at least one thousand tons of ore from Canada and South America would be processed yearly, and in less than a decade, we would have millions of tons of toxic slag in our sunset sky! But, let’s not get overly cynical.


Could it be that gold-processing may not be that bad after all? There are plans for a modest extension of the oyster beds in the Bay and since oysters purify the water they would automatically ingest the cyanide and the mercury that is utilized in processing gold. That way, we could have our oysters along with a thin layer of gold leaf on the side.

 

John Wiebe resides in Westhaven.


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