Mount Baker: Whatcom • Skagit • SanJuan

Contact the Group


Chair: Judith Akins

Vice-Chair: Stan Parker

Secretary: Nora Weaver

Treasurer: Natalie McClendon

Mentor for Committees: Bob Aegerter


Tuesday, December 9th at 6.30 - 8:30 PM, at Stan's house, 2520 Jefferson Street, Bellingham. All members welcome.

The Sierra Club went all in during this election in the hopes of electing a GREEN state senate that could support Gov. Inslee's Climate Change agenda. I was not easy being green this election year. Lots of our endorsed candidates won, but in the priority races, mainly challengers to Republican state senators, our endorsed candidates lost. There is very little change in the numbers, and no change in the control of the State Senate or House of Representatives as a result of the election. Campaign expenditures HERE and HERE.

Of the endorsed candidates on our local ballot, a big win was re-electing U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, whose race was one of the top targeted to unseat. DelBene came in with a comfortable 54% of the vote, in this her first critical re-election. Also re-elected was Rep. Kris Lytton, 40th District.

The 42nd District, rural Whatcom County and a bit of Bellingham, was a different story. With low turnout and an energized conservative base, our endorsed candidates did much worse than in 2012. A huge amount of money was spent in both the Senate and the open House seat, and it didn't seem to make much difference at all.

Please extend your thanks to Seth Fleetwood, Satpal Sidhu, and Joy Monjure for running in the 42nd. Sierra Club members doorbelled and made calls for them, both at Sierra Club-organized events and also on their own. We actually have a lot of members who regularly volunteer in election campaigns without much prompting.

Whatcom County Charter Commission:

The Mt Baker Group did not endorse in these races, but this Commission is the one to watch in 2015. While it is non-partisan and pretty low-key, the investors and supporters of the Gateway Pacific Terminal made electing their people to this Charter Commission a priority. They were able to get a majority of their folks elected to the Commission, so expect to see their Charter amendments in the ballot in November 2015.

Why do they care? They plan to push district-only voting for County Council so they can get their folks elected to the Council and push through the permits they need. If things don't go your way, change the rules!

You might recall that we did this last go-round in 2006, it was approved by voters, we had one election using these rules, and then Councilwoman Barbara Brenner got the Council to put a repeal amendment on the ballot and the voters approved going back to county-wide voting in 2008.

Direct questions about the Sierra Club political efforts to Natalie McClendon or 319-8287.

Full houses hear talk on the Boldt Decision and water law

The special lectures by Dr. Charles F. Wilkinson, which the Mt Baker Group co-sponsored last month, were full in all three locations in Whatcom County. Wilkinson spoke about "The Greatness of the Boldt Decision of 1974: It’s Pivotal Role in Northwest Washington, Indian Country and America Today" as well as reminiscences of late Billy Frank. Audiences heard Wilkinson at Northwest Indian College, Huxley College of the Environment at WWU, and an evening community lecture in Bellingham.

Whatcom County has started to engage in a series of issues associated with water supplies, allocation and rights. One of these issues is the unresolved Treaty Rights of The Lummi Nation and Nooksack relating to water and salmon. An understanding of the Boldt decision of 1974 is fundamental to the work of solving our local water issues.

Dr. Wilkinson, of the University of Colorado Law School is a nationally recognized expert on law related to Indian Treaty rights, has written fourteen books, and is currently working on a book about the Boldt decision.

Sierra Club Delivers 10,000 Clean-Energy Petitions to Puget Sound Energy; Launches Ad Campaign 

On October 8, some 30 Sierra Club volunteers and four staffers with the Club's Beyond Coal campaigndelivered more than 10,000 petitions to Puget Sound Energy's legislative office in Olympia, urging PSE to replace the coal power in its portfolio with clean energy such as wind and solar and efficiency measures that would create thousands of jobs in the Pacific Northwest.

Prior to delivering the petitions, the activists held a press conference in the Legislative Rotunda at the state capitol, below, where they presented a report card grading PSE on its current energy portfolio. The utility's marks were generally high, but it received an "F" for coal, as more than 30 percent of its electricity supply comes from the Colstrip coal-burning power plant in Montana, the Northwest's largest source of carbon pollution. PSE is the primary owner of the Colstrip plant. READ MORE

To support the grassroots drive to make PSE Coal-Free, the Sierra Club launched a multi-platform ad campaign on Pandora, Facebook, KOMO news radio and the Puget Sound Business Journal. The ads are targeted at PSE’s service territory and the Pandora placement includes an option for users to access and sign a petition directly from their browser or mobile phone. You can listen to the KOMO radio ad here, and see the Puget Sound Business Journal Ad here.


RELAUNCH OF THE MOUNT BAKER GROUP has been going smoothly and we have been involved on various environmental issues this month which will be highlighted below in this issue. However, before we go any further we would like to recognize one of our long standing members here this month, Betsy Gross. She has been a member of the Sierra Club since 1970 and has been instrumental in the recent reorganization of the Mount Baker Group. She has been the glue which held us together and gathered us into a cohesive group bringing old and new members together to work for a vibrant presence of the Sierra Club in Whatcom County and beyond. She recently received a Peace Builder award from the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center for her efforts in behalf of the Sierra Club and for creating People for Lake Padden, a citizen's group whose mission is the protection of our lake. Congratulations and thanks to Betsy for all you have done.

The campaign to urge Puget Sound Energy to kick the coal habit and invest in clean energy continues and we have gathered momentum with local businesses taking a stand to urge our energy company to be cost effective and clean. You can still get involved by helping secure business signatures and/or sending in personal letters to PSE. Please call or email Judith and I can send you information about this issue.

The Executive Committees from across the state also hold monthly meetings and I will give you monthly updates from this group. At present Governor Inslee's climate proposal will be a very big part of our agenda this year. We need to let the governor and our state legislatures know that we support this agenda. Next, if you are interested in fund raising for the state chapter send Judith an email because the state chapter needs someone to head up this important committee. Judith's email

Washington State Oil By Rail and Marine Comments Due Dec 1

Public Hearings on the Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study were held in late October and some 1,000 folks showed up to testify. The Governor's 2014 budget provided one-time funding for Ecology to conduct a Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study. The objective of the study is to analyze the risks to public health and safety, and the environmental impacts associated with the transport of oil in Washington state.

Crude by rail transportation has increased dramatically in the last three years, and the trend is expected to continue. The study says 19 loaded trains per week now travel through the state. Three of the five refineries in Puget Sound currently receive oil cars and the other two are expected to do so in the future.
"We didn't even have any oil trains in Washington state until 2012. So this is a super new dynamic for us," said Lisa Copeland, communication manager for spills at the state Department of Ecology. "  Read more from the KPLU article here
Scope and timeline of study

Comments Due By December 1. You may submit your comment here

Gateway Pacific Terminal Project

The First Environmental Impact Studies (EIS) Public Hearings have closed on the proposed Gateway Pacific (Coal) Terminal in Ferndale, WA. The three co-lead agencies in charge of the EIS permitting of GPT are- WA State Department of Ecology, US Army Corps of Engineers, and Whatcom County Council. Any one of the three agencies may deny the permits.

After the release of the draft EIS in 2015 or later, there will be a second public comment period and hearings, followed by a final EIS.

Whatcom County staff will prepare a report for submission to the Whatcom County Hearing Examiner. Recommendations from the Hearing Examiner will be given to the County Council. If the Whatcom Council Council approves the project, permit decisions by the other lead agencies will follow.

Please stay tuned and vigilant as to what is being reviewed and how it is being studied and let the agencies know what your concerns are because we all have a stake in the future of our environment.

Watch a short video on marine and rail impacts
Whatcom County EIS Page
WA Dept. of Ecology Scoping announcement
WA Dept of Ecology Scoping Report