Posted by: sweeneyblog | April 16, 2014

Gateway Pacific Terminal – Still Trying to Persuade

For those who thought the progressive takeover of the County Council was the last we would hear about the Gateway Pacific Terminal, prepare to be shocked. Okay, no one? That’s what I thought. Still, I thought that SSA Marine would take a step back, reassess and perhaps change tactics before moving forward.

No such luck. Yesterday, I received a nice glossy mailer from SSA Marine trying to persuade me about all the benefits of the project. Here it is below:


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Four things stuck out to me about this mail piece. 

  1. This piece is addressed to “RESIDENT” rather than to me personally. Whoever is coordinating this is not doing a tightly targeted mailing to key voters, but rather a blanket mailing to everyone within a geographic area.
  2. The mailer does not have one consistent message, instead it throws out a variety of different techniques. There is the bandwagon approach (look at all the people who support this), the economic appeal (look at all the money it would bring), the environmental appeal (we will leave some trees standing), etc.
  3. Finally, there are not one but two tiny, tiny little maps on the mail piece. Seriously, none of the writing on those maps is remotely legible. Did they expect us to bust out a magnifying glass for this piece or did they assume we would know where Cherry Point is, and if we already know, why did you put a map on your mailer?
  4. In the entire piece, they never say the word, “coal.” Not once.

Down in tiny print at the very bottom of the mailer, is this sentence: “Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) is proposed by SSA Marine. Now based in Seattle, SSA Marine was founded in Whatcom County as Bellingham Stevedoring Company and has been part of the community for decades.” While this is true (you can find SSA Marine’s corporate history here), why would they want to bury that argument? In our history-loving community, you would think a small company that hit it big would be something to focus on.

In short, this whole mailing feels like a written attempt at a Gish Gallop, where you present a bunch of small ideas very quickly in an attempt to razzle-dazzle someone into supporting your position. Is this part of a larger persuasion effort or simply an attempt to test the waters, post-election?

For more insight on political mailers, check out my analysis of local election flyers in 2013 and in 2011As always, you can help support citizen journalism with a donation here.




  1. I guess green-washing never goes out of style.

  2. They buried the “proposed by SSA Marine” because, like everything else in the flyer, it’s not true or only partially true. The reality is that SSA Marine has created a subsidiary, Pacific International Terminals, Inc., which owns GPT. That way, when they walk away and leave us with the cleanup and addressing long-term impacts of this environmental nightmare, they can quickly dissolve the REAL proponent corporation, and the once-Bellingham-based parent can continue business as usual, comfortably ensconced in their Seattle digs, unimpeded by the overwhelming costs associated with this boondoggle.

    • Sounds the current administration’s tactics.

  3. Opportunity/environmental/sustainable: the thing is, words have to mean something. You can’t just pull them out of a poll, put them in a blender and pour them onto a page.

    • They mean AGENDA 21.

      • Sometimes, John, I can’t tell when you are messing with me or not. 🙂

    • Exactly, there is no coherent message – just everything they thought might work.

      • I am dead serious. Read up on AGENDA 21 and it will become obvious. See

        I would never “mess with” my best bud.

  4. By now everyone knows about their illegal land clearing which pretty much negates the claim of environmental sensitivity.
    And the pompous scoffing of Watters himself to the $1.6 million settlement didn’t help any.
    Even if Inviting 4,300 temporary construction workers into our corner is the right plan
    and dumping 1,200 coal cars every day on our shoreline is the right place.
    the biggest question of all still remains – Why?
    Why should any American make a profit powering the Chinese economy?
    Sadly, our local governmental agencies wanna play with the Big Boys so they’ll bend over backwards to make things smooth for this ridiculous coal scheme.

    • Why should any Mexican, Saudi, Kuwait, Iraqi, or Venezuelan (or any others) make a profit powering the US economy?

      • The short answer is that the nations you named have few other ways of powering their own economies except through direct exports to the US.
        We routinely run large trade deficits with each of those nations which translates directly into income for them far beyond what they spend buying from us.

      • Like the Chinese?

      • Yes, The Chinese are dependent upon Peabody Coal to run their economy.

  5. What do I think about a company like SSA that wants to build and operate the largest coal terminal in our nation for exporting coal to Asia trying to sell the idea that they are environmental do-gooders because they have won some local environmental award?

    Even some of the worst polluting companies which destroy our environment can win awards, or at least be in the running to win awards for their supposed great deeds for the environment.

    An April 2010 CNN article (link below) reported:

    “Call it a tragic irony.”

    “BP, now under federal scrutiny because of its role in the deadly Gulf of Mexico explosion and oil spill, is one of three finalists for a federal award honoring offshore oil companies for ‘outstanding safety and pollution prevention.’

    The winner of the award – chosen before the April 20 oil rig incident – was to be announced this coming Monday at a luncheon in Houston. But the U.S. Department of Interior this week postponed the awards ceremony, saying it needs to devote its resources to the ongoing situation resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and fire.

    Eleven workers are presumed dead and an estimated 5,000 barrels of oil are leaking every day from the well. The cause of the explosion is still unknown.”

  6. I asked a friend who read it yesterday what she thought about it–she said she’s even less inclined to support the terminal after reading it. Thought it was a deliberate attempt to dazzle her with numbers. She didn’t buy anything except the $11 million figure. Everything else seemed like a sales job.

    • And we have got to communicate better about the public costs. $11 mil. will change the grade at how many crossings, and there are how many at grade crossings from Billings to Bellingham? Giveaway mining leases on BLM land. Subsidized expansion of rail infrastructure. Quiet zones. It would take quite the economist to figure out the multiplier of what it costs us to garner those tax revenues.

  7. […] drastic example, they could strip the County Council of its ability to approve land use permits, a major blow for Gateway Pacific Terminal opponents. Alternately, they could turn the County Executive into an appointed position and give […]

  8. […] to the PAC, SSA Marine, a Seattle company that would build the coal terminal, is funding an ongoing campaign in support of the project. But clean energy proponents out-spent coal in this round: […]

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