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The Daily Troll: Senate upheaval. Coal spill and export worries in B.C. Singing Seattle's 2012 experiences.

Breakaway Democrats team up with Republicans to control the Senate. An accident disables a coal-export facility in British Columbia just as debate heats up. A wry musical look back at 2012.

Legislative upheaval

Bipartisanship of a sort will rule in the state Senate. Republicans and two breakaway Democrats announced plans for the two parties to split chairmanships of Senate committees with Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, as the majority leader.

Crosscut's John Stang has an article up outlining the decisions in detail and some of the unresolved questions around it. Associated Press has an account posted by The News Tribune that drills in on the plan's reliance on the support of unpredictable Republican Pam Roach, who was kicked out of her own caucus for a time over allegations of mistreating staff.

Tom tries to portray Roach's problems with temper and the treatment of staffers as being a closed matter. AP's Mike Baker quotes Tom as saying, "She's going to act in a professional manner." Hmm. Any program for making policy that is built around keeping Roach happy will be in effect until it is no longer in effect.

Vancouver coal shipping

A Canadian report today says the coal-shipping facility near Vancouver will be out of service "for the foreseeable future" in the wake of an accident Friday where a ship essentially demolished a load facility. The accident also dumped an estimated 30 tons of coal into the water, something that scientists have warned about in Washington state's debates about terminals to export coal to China.

As Crosscut's Floyd McKay recently reported, at one public discussion a marine scientist, M. Patricia Morse, warned that coal spills could be devastating to many marine life species in Haro Strait. Her warning came in the context of increased marine traffic, but this accident, still unexplained, occurred during what presumably should have been a simple docking maneuver. 

According to a Canadian trade magazine, Materials Management & Distribution, at least one coal shipper in Vancouver said they didn't expect the accident to substantially change the volume of shipments, since a second berthing facility is available. So, Washington residents living along BNSF's main line, used by trains headed to Canada's Westshore Terminals, probably won't see any relief from noise and coal dust.

While Washington state residents are debating proposals here (hearings will occur in Vancouver, Wash. on Wednesday and in Seattle on Thursday), British Columbia opponents are gearing up to fight two new coal export proposals there. The Tyee reports that Vancouver, B.C. mayor has called for more public say in the decisions, which activists are primarily opposing on climate concerns. Like the existing coal shipments from Canada, the new proposals focus on U.S.-mined coal.

Environmentally smarter shipping

Speaking of maritime trade, The Seattle Times' Brier Dudley has a much more upbeat report today about a Seattle company, TOTE Shipholdings, that will operate huge hybrid container ships on a Florida-Puerto Rico line. The ships, being built in South Korea, would reportedly reduce particulate emissions (a primary pollution and health concern) by 99 percent, with their ability to run on both lower-sulfur diesel and liquefied natural gas. 

This would be the real game-changer in the maritime field.

Figgy Pudding success 

Judging by the crowds, the Great Figgy Pudding Street Caroling Competition for the Pike Market Senior Center & Food Bank was a weekend highlight for ... lots of people. There are updates about the event being posted on a Facebook page today, and it sounds like a big success.

The page has at least one caroling video already. Here's one that reviews Seattle's year to the tune of The 12 Days of Christmas

 

Joe Copeland is political editor for Crosscut. You can reach him at Joe.Copeland@crosscut.com.


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