Transition Whatcom

Open Letter to Fuse: Tom Anderson/"The Scoop on Coal"

An Open Letter to Aaron Ostrom, Executive Director of Fuse Washington


(Normally I would lean towards not posting such a blatant personal political position here on the TW site, but since a blatant misrepresentation of Tom Anderson is being spread prominently, I am making an exception)

As someone who's been a long time subscriber to Fuse, I have found the information your organization shares to be quite valuable, and often an important consideration regarding political endorsements.

It was therefore quite shocking and sad to see how Tom Anderson was misrepresented in the recent email on the Whatcom County Executive race and "The Scoop on Coal."  The success and reputation of Fuse Washington will rest on your ability to accurately evaluate issues and candidates in relation to their progressive values, beliefs, and principles.  I believe you really need to rethink this one, and a public retraction is in order.

Tom Anderson is the only candidate who has published a detailed, nuanced position statement on the coal terminal on his website.  David Stalheim has two short and somewhat vague paragraphs, and the other two candidates do not mention the issue at all on their respective websites.  Therefore, it confounds me how you could get Tom's position so wrong. The email your organization sent out also chose to leave out the fact that Tom has received the endorsement of the Whatcom County Democrats.

Tom's full statement is here:

Tom clearly states both his personal opinion on the subject, as well as how he would handle the issue as the County Executive.  His personal opinion is as follows:

1. I support building shipping terminal capacity at Cherry Point to enhance our long-term chances for clean industry in Whatcom County, per the 1997 permit agreement.

2. I am opposed to constructing the United States’ largest coal export facility at Cherry Point for two reasons
• First, the impacts to Whatcom County’s quality of life, and the interference with car traffic and access caused by frequent trains, could be substantial.

• Second, I am opposed to the export of the U.S. coal reserve in general because energy equals jobs. In the long run, if we are unsuccessful at developing alternative energy sources, coal will be all we have for long-term job security, and sending our natural resources offshore is preposterous, if not downright stupid.

Tom also clearly states how he would handle the issue as a County Executive:

"Personally, I would love to see the citizens of Whatcom County stand up for strong environmental values regarding this project, and would willingly support that effort...I am running for Whatcom County Executive, not Dictator. Therefore, my personal opinion, although important, should not be the final word. The citizens of Whatcom County need to hold productive public conversations and express their views on this major issue. . These views need to be assessed, catalogued, and a majority opinion arrived at. If the majority agrees to a coal terminal, it would be incumbent upon my office to see that the project is mitigated to a standard that protects our quality of life."

Please read for yourself the entire statement made by Tom.

Tom also discussed the issue in a recent interview with Cascadia Weekly, again stating his opinion quite clearly:

"CW: We’ve saved coal for last. What are your thoughts on the proposed shipping terminal at Cherry Point?

TA: Number one, I am in favor of building a shipping terminal. But the terminal I want to see built is one that is ultimately beneficial to serving Whatcom County. My concern is, ocean shipping is—without question—the least expensive form of transport and it always will be. If we’re going to participate in a regional and global marketplace to any extent, our access to shipping and transportation corridor is critical.

I am personally convinced, based on my own experience, that facilities can be built that are environmentally low impact.


But what is being proposed right now, which would foreclose on the county’s access to shipping? No. We do not need to have North America’s largest coal terminal at Cherry Point.


Not only is it bad local policy, it is bad national energy policy. The U.S.’s only major energy reserve is its coal fields.


Now, we could get busy and build an alternative energy future with solar, geothermal and wind energy, but we’re not doing it. And guess what, if we don’t do it 20 years from now, what are we going to do for energy for jobs?


My second objection is an environmental one. Why would we ship coal to China and receive atmospheric mercury pollution in return? We know that is already happening, why would we choose to accelerate that?


Big picture nationally, that coal should probably stay in the ground.

Big picture locally, this is a great place, and we’ve got to keep it that way. If we don’t shape our own future, it will be shaped for us and by people we don’t necessarily agree with."

I personally like David Stalheim, but he has not made such clear statements as Tom has as far as I am aware, from viewing his website and from his interview at Cascadia Weekly.  In the Weekly interview Stalheim clearly supports a terminal for grains and other commodities, similar to Tom's position; he also affirms that the coal port applicant "has a due process right to have that properly considered." He doesn't clearly state his personal position on coal in the interview, but says a terminal for other commodities would get through with fewer hurdles.


I have worked with Tom Anderson closely on our local Energy Resource Scarcity/Peak Oil Task Force, and with both Transition Whatcom and Sustainable Bellingham.  I know Tom to be as knowledgeable and committed as anyone on issues of climate, environment, and resource scarcity.  He also has a very appropriate respect for the perspectives of those holding other viewpoints, and of the need for a County Executive to represent the needs of all of its citizens, not just those who label themselves as "progressives". 

He has my unwavering support, and the support of numerous other "environmental activists" in our community.

Please see Tom's note below, sent to Erin Haick, of Fuse.  He expects an apology and a public retraction.

David  MacLeod, Bellingham

- - - - - - - - -



From: "Erin Haick, Fuse Votes" a rel="nofollow">>
Date: July 29, 2011 2:08:24 PM PDT
To: [Email list of those who signed the Fuse pledge to vote against coal-powered candidates]
Subject: Primary Election 2011:  the scoop on coal

"...Tom Anderson is an engineer and the former general manager of Whatcom County Public Utilities District #1. Anderson has stated that he supports building a shipping terminal and believes facilities can be built that are environmentally low impact. Despite his environmental activism, Anderson is not running a credible campaign for County Executive. "

- - - - - - - - - -




To say that you have completely misrepresented my position on the proposed Cherry Point Terminal and the shipment of coal is a gross understatement please see my web page at; and the article in the Cascadia Weekly at;


To have you express the opinion that “ Anderson is not running a credible campaign for County Executive ” borders on slander and is certainly political mud slinging that I find both unfortunate and to decreases the value of your organization.


I expect an apology and a published retraction.


Tom Anderson



Views: 96


You need to be a member of Transition Whatcom to add comments!

Join Transition Whatcom

Comment by Rob Olason on August 8, 2011 at 6:31pm
David, Thanks for posting this!

© 2024   Created by David MacLeod.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service