Posted by: sweeneyblog | May 23, 2014

Friday Odds and Ends: Spying, Litigating and Grumbling

Hello Loyal Readers,

The rain, long-delayed, has once again blessed our weekends. My condolences to everyone skiing, biking, canoeing, running, marching, juggling or drinking outside this weekend. Yes, it is Ski-to-Sea weekend so buckle up for the insanity of Whatcom’s largest event. But before that, a few Odds and Ends.

Suzan Delbene

Suzan Delbene

Rep. Rick Larsen and Rep. Suzan DelBene parted ways recently over a bill that would provide some restrictions on how our intelligence agencies gather data. Good news, the bill limits the ability for organizations to request information on a person two contacts away from a terrorism suspect (we call this a 1/3rd Kevin Bacon).

However, thanks to backroom pressure from the Obama administration, there were a number of loopholes built into the law to allow bulk data collections (such as requesting all the phone records for an entire zip code). You can read more details here.

DelBene voted against the bill, saying it does not go far enough to protect the privacy of Americans, while Larsen voted for it as an important first step. As with most surveillance issues, the vote defied a partisan dynamic with both Democratic and Republican members voting for and against it. It passed the House and now moves on to the Senate.

Former AG Rob McKenna

Former AG Rob McKenna

Have you wondered what Rob McKenna has been up to since he lost his bid for the governor’s mansion? Apparently, he has been litigating on behalf of the proposed coal terminal. Yes, you heard that right. Sandy Robson has a great article up on Northwest Citizen detailing how the coal industry has hired McKenna and his law firm to prepare their EIS comments for them. It makes for an interesting local angle should McKenna decide to reenter public service.

Finally, if the recent round of blog drama between Kris Halterman and I leaves you wanting more, Halterman has responded to my response to her “fact-checking” of my reporting. At a certain point, it seems to devolve into a bit of a fish fight, however I do want to make one point about the pictures I use on my blog.

In most cases, I intentionally pull interesting, funny or goofy pictures of people because I believe we take things too seriously, and it gets people to read the article. However on interviews, when I am sharing insight into one specific person, I always try to get a good picture (see Bill Knutzen, Kathy Kershner, and Ken Bell for some conservative examples). My goal is never to make someone look foolish with a picture . . . their own words are usually enough to do that.

That’s all for today. If you are coming up to the Ski-to-Sea parade, look for me in the Whatcom Democrats section and stay dry out there as best you can.



  1. Riley, enjoyed going back and reading your Oct. 2013 blog, linked from “their own words….” A clarification of the coal terminal proponents’ cynical messaging: they’re not saying WE will die if the terminal isn’t built; they’re saying poor people in other countries will. The problem is that a quarter million people are dying annually already in China from pollution-related diseases caused from their burning of so much coal which, OBTW, isn’t being used for energy production but, rather, manufacturing. India does have a large sector of the population living without energy, but I would suggest to SSA Marine, Peabody Coal, BNSF, and other members of the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports whose Discovery Institute/Young Earther-trained consultants concocted this ridiculous messaging strategy, that they go build some solar villages in Indian villages and stop killing them with their damned coal. (Oh, and great comeback to Kris in that radio debate, BTW.)

    • Thank you – like I said earlier, the score is 2-0.

      • In your dreams! Kris demolished your arguments. And you “Mr. Be Nice”. 🙂

  2. Some background on the “save the poor people of the world with our coal” propaganda:,,

  3. As for Rob McKenna, here’s what the Boy Genius said in his Nov. 2013 comment on the Millennium coal terminal proposal in Longview on behalf of Montana and North Dakota:

    “Ecology’s decisions on the MBTL Project, including the scoping decision, extend far beyond the borders of Washington. A decision to investigate environmental impacts in China or other importing countries, as well as in the States, is a decision that those extraterritorial impacts should play a role in determining whether these other States’ citizens may engage in commerce
    nationally and internationally. Deciding against the MBTL Project on the basis of indire speculative impacts in China, for example, would be a decision to hinder China from obtaining high-quality coal from Montana and a decision to prevent Montana’s citizens from producing and selling such coal. The States believe that such actions are legitimate environmental concerns, regulate extraterritorially beyond Washington’s borders and infringe on the rights of the citizens of other States and nations.”

    Except that SEPA, as our ex-AG should know, REQUIRES scoping of indirect impacts wherever they occur, and expressly directs agencies not to confine their consideration of impacts to their own jurisdictional borders. But, at the end of the day, Millennium won’t be permitted for a bunch of reasons having to do with impacts in Washington that can’t be mitigated.

    If the AG Wunderkinder won with their interstate commerce argument, it would mean that a state’s right to protect health and safety is always trumped if there is a buck to be made. And I don’t believe even the SCOTUS is willing to go there.

  4. AGENDA 21 Shill!

    • Nah, JG, it’s the law of the land. But I love your enthusiasm and consistency.

      • Have you read AGENDA 21?

  5. If you’re going to use Copyrighted images, (Knutzen, in this case: my copyright is appended.) you might at least give a credit to the owner of the image. Thanks in advance.

    If Ms. Wechsler thinks coal is going to go away, she hasn’t been to Germany lately, where new coal-fired plants are under construction as I write.

    Her comment that poor Indians would be better off with “solar villages” isn’t likely to be well-received in India, where most citizens think that inexpensive energy of the sort that has enriched the United States, that is, from coal-fired power plants, would be good for them as well.

    • D6, if you’re going to counterargue, keep up with the argument. I said that terminal proponents are claiming they don’t want to see people who need energy die, suggesting they are exporting coal to save the Poor Little Peoples of the World. Except that their coal kills people and is leading to climate destabilization resulting in catastrophes that impact populations randomly and are paid for by the rest of us who can afford to address the wreckage. So I was suggesting that members of the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports’ asltruism would be better directed toward helping the Little Peoples they care so much about install alternative energy systems.

  6. Mr. McKenna is a lawyer so it’s his job to put forth the best arguments he can on behalf of his clients whether he agrees with them or not.
    It’s a mistake to make this about him.

    Germany’s new coal burning plants are replacing – not adding to – the older plants that have either been or will soon be decommissioned.
    By 2020,
    18.5 gigawatts of coal power capacity will be decommissioned and 11.3 gigawatts will be newly installed.
    Also those plants will be more efficient,
    releasing less CO2 per unit electricity produced than the ones they are replacing,
    and the new coal plants are partially load-following meaning they make-up for temporary fluctuations in demand instead of constantly running to capacity.
    Renewable energy and efficiency upgrades have completely compensated for the shut-down of 8 German nuclear reactors in 2011.
    Citizen activism has blocked 20 of the 29 proposed new coal plants and may well stop others.

    • Nah, it’s about Rob. MT and ND had their choice of dozens of really smart lawyers to make anti-SEPA arguments for them, and they picked the ex-AG of WA. And he made what was, IMO, about the weakest argument that can be made, without citation to a single case or body of law to support his argument.

  7. I’m sure the German people enjoy paying about $.30 per kilowatt hour for their power. do you think that’s a good idea for us?

    By the way, much of the new coal deposits in Europe are brown coal, which has lower heat content than existing supplies, so the new efficiency is mostly squandered in terms of CO2 emissions.

  8. John Stark reported on McKenna’s work for Montana and North Dakota in November 2013:

    • First, thank you Riley for mentioning my recent article posted on NWCitizen.

      As a matter of fact, in researching for my article, I had read John Stark’s Nov. 21, 2013 Herald blog post about McKenna preparing the EIS comments. I ended up referencing a Nov. 20, 2013 Billings Gazette news article on McKenna preparing EIS comments, as part of my piece.

      While Montana’s and North Dakota’s hiring of McKenna to prepare EIS comments for MBTL is certainly not new news, I wanted to compile information showing what PRB states did/are doing in terms of trying to push these coal export terminal projects on our state. . .Even potentially by using legal force as I mentioned with the Wyoming State Legislature appropriating $500,000 for potential legal battles regarding the proposed Pac NW coal terminals.

      McKenna’s work on behalf of Montana and North Dakota is just one of the pieces in the coal terminal puzzle, and could still pop up again like a Wac-A-Mole.

  9. I do not believe that Rob McKenna is simply an attorney who is a Partner at Orrick law firm in Seattle, who just so happened to be tasked with preparing EIS comments on behalf of Montana and North Dakota.

    I believe McKenna was tapped for that task for a reason. What exactly, is still to be determined. It is possible that Orrick and McKenna could be hired to represent Montana and/or North Dakota for potential litigation against Pac NW states regarding the regulatory process and decisions for the proposed coal terminals.

    In my opinion, McKenna is not just an attorney who is putting forth arguments for his clients as some people say. Currently he seems very involved in a website called which under the “About” section only talks about Rob and his wife Marilyn so it seems to be a platform for McKenna.

    McKenna (probably someone working for him) is also keeping his “Rob McKenna Politician” Facebook page current with lots of posts about various issues and even shares posts created by his smartergovernmentwa. website. I doubt he would be maintaining that website and his Facebook page unless it was part of some overall plan he has, such as possibly running for elected office.

    The idea of a former AG for our state seeming to have laid the legal framework (in his EIS comments on behalf of Montana and North Dakota) for potential litigation of matters relating to regulatory process decisions on GPT and MBTL against our state–a state in which he resides, is something that should be scrutinized. Just like we should be scrutinizing anything related to these huge proposed coal terminals, because there is nothing that should be viewed as “business as usual” about them.

    • Some lawyer somewhere was gonna advance the same arguments that McKenna has formulated for his clients
      so it’s silly to demonize the messenger for a strategy we may not like.
      I think he should be looking out for Washingtonians instead of trying to choke a coal dump down our throat but in the end
      it’s a job and somebody had to do it.
      If his case is weak,
      he’ll fail, but impugning his character is pointless.

      • I am just clarifying that as the author of the article which mentions McKenna, and in my comments here on this blog post, I am impugning no person’s character.

        What I am doing is scrutinizing politicians and public figures and their actions as they are being used and manipulated by corporations. Many corporations are driven primarily by profit and survival and very often do not take into consideration the best interests of the communities they are in or seek to become a part of.

        I am not making any judgement calls in my articles on whether the individuals involved are good or evil. I am trying to find out whether they are being used and the ways they are being used in manners that will harm us, perhaps in many irreparable ways.

    • Impugn was probably too harsh a word but for
      whatever else,
      a lawyer proposes his position in front of a court and he goes nowhere without some sort of legal standing
      no matter how well connected he is politically.
      His argument may not be his own personal choice,
      nor the expected outcome of the case suited to his preferences.
      It’s a job.

      • You’re probably right, Dave. The interstate commerce argument — dog that it is — has been a recurring theme of the proponents’, and one can hear it being echoed back at us by officials. It’s designed to have a chilling effect and is having some limited success. At the end of the day, as you suggest, it won’t be the basis of a decision by a permitting authority, but may be rattling around in the back of their brain. And what the proponents know is that the standard of review of those permit determinations is incredibly deferential to the agencies. So there’s a method to that madness, I’ll give you that.

  10. Germans already had the highest electricity rates in the EU
    and then voted to pursue and encourage renewable energy through added surcharges on their electric bills.
    They are essentially paying themselves for the costs of their energy policies.
    Carbon-based generation lost their public subsidies and excess domestic solar power is purchased at rates far above market.
    quantifying CO2 emissions per KWH generated leads to direct comparisons of efficiency and cleanliness no matter which fuels you study.

  11. I’m puzzled that you express such enthusiasm for the world’s most distorted, mismanaged, power market, but your point of view has no chance of gaining much traction in the US.

    Not everyone shares your distaste for coal, as I wrote earlier.

  12. My interest is in fleshing out the facts whenever I have questions about unqualified statements in a post.
    The coal dump would be in my backyard and I’m a coal NIMBY,
    Plus I tend to love the area where I live and see coal as the antithesis of beauty.

  13. Coal isn’t beautiful? How about oil: is there any beauty in that? Beauty in trainloads of the stuff?

    • YES, YES, YES! 🙂

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