Lest anyone forget – ever – Craig Cole was for coal and posed a threat to Lummi treaty rights / Noisy Waters Northwest

Click the graphic to access a page of articles referencing Craig Cole’s involvement in promoting the Gateway Pacific coal terminal

It has come to my attention that some of our community leaders may be in need of a refresher course on Bellingham public figure, Craig Cole’s years of avid advocacy for the Gateway Pacific coal terminal.

Someone alerted me to an email sent to the 42nd LD Democrats list-serve in response to some concern expressed by local investigative journalist Sandy Robson about contributions to the campaign for candidate for Whatcom County Executive, Jim Boyle.

Sandy’s primary concerns had to do with $6000 in campaign contributions coming from West Virginia Republican Congressman David McKinely, $2000 of that $6000 coming from Congressman McKinely himself, and another $4000 from two other McKinley family members. Congressman McKinley happens to be an in-law of Jim Boyle’s.

I will post Robson’s comment with her stated, and somewhat tentative concerns, along with some other comments responding to her comment at the end of this post. However, what had initiated Robson’s concern was Congressman McKinley’s long-standing and continued promotion of the coal industry, and specifically that the Congressman had sought to advance legislation a few years ago which, if it had passed, would have served to abrogate Lummi Treaty rights during the time they were receiving a ruling from the Army Corps of Engineers affirming their treaty rights and denying a critical permit for the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Xwe’chi’eXen, Cherry Point.

Additionally, Mr. Boyle had received a smaller donation, $250, from Craig Cole. Mr. Cole had been involved with organizations and actions that had misrepresented the efforts of Lummi Nation in the process of his promoting the coal port that was threatening their traditional and cultural lands and waters.

Robson’s understanding from a conversation with Mr. Boyle was that he had known Mr. Cole from when the two men had worked on a mental health issues project together.

Meanwhile, the email to the 42nd LD Democrats list-serve, in response to Robson’s concerns about these contributions to Mr. Boyle, had explained how the author of the email felt that Mr. Cole’s intent when he started with the Gateway Pacific Terminal project, was for Economic Development reasons before it turned into a coal port discussion.  They stated that they didn’t think Mr. Cole had stayed with the project.

Therefore I am posting links to many commentary pieces written by Robson and myself, some of which are linked to in the graphic at the top of this post and some in the list below, where we provided plenty of accompanying documentation of Mr. Cole’s connection to promoting the coal terminal project for many years.

Coal Stop articles referencing Craig Cole and GPT:

Sandy Robson‘s Facebook comment about the contributions to Jim Boyle’s campaign:

Here is some additional information that people may, or may not, want to consider about county executive candidate, Jim Boyle—

As I mentioned in my above post, I communicated with Mr. Boyle last Wednesday regarding a question I had. Then, last Friday, I communicated again with him, via phone, this time about a couple additional questions I had after having looked on the PDC’s website at the contributions his campaign has received.

First, I should say that Mr. Boyle was personable to speak with, and I liked that he returned my call promptly, and answered my questions. However, to be frank, there is a nagging concern I have way back in the back of my mind relating to his candidacy for county executive, even though when I spoke to him about it he had a reasonable, understandable explanation for what was bothering me. 

My call to him was prompted by my review last Friday of the contributions to his campaign when I noticed that David McKinley, who is a pro-coal Republican U.S. congressman from West Virginia, had donated $2,000 (the maximum allowed) to Boyle’s campaign. Two other McKinley family members also donated $2,000 each to his campaign. The total amount donated to Mr. Boyle’s campaign by McKinley family members was $6,000. 

To say that Congressman David McKinley is pro-coal is pretty much of an understatement — people can search online and see his actions on behalf of coal interests. You may remember back during the coal terminal fight, that Congressman McKinley proposed Amendment 13 (it eventually was called Amendment 850), “the McKinley Amendment,” which the House passed by a voice vote on December 2, 2015. Ryan Zinke, a congressman back at that time, co-sponsored that amendment that was attached to a bill, H.R. 8.

Amendment 13 sought to prohibit the denial of a permit for the construction, operation, or maintenance of an export facility until all reviews required under NEPA are complete. This was a specific legislative attempt to circumvent the then-impending treaty rights determination regarding the GPT project, relating to the Lummi Nation’s January 2015 request to the Army Corps for an immediate permit denial due to the project’s impact on Lummi treaty rights. 

Amendment 13 was passed by a “voice vote” of the House on December 2, 2015. The next day, on December 3, 2015, H.R. 8 was passed by the House. H.R. 8 was received in the Senate on December 7, 2015, and sent to Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. I don’t believe it ever moved beyond that committee. 

According to Opensecrets(dot)org, David McKinley received a $1,000 campaign donation for 2015-2016 from FRS Capital (the ultimate parent company over Carrix and SSA Marine which was the coal terminal applicant).

I also noticed that Craig Cole, SSA Marine’s local consultant on the then- proposed coal terminal project, had donated $250 to Mr. Boyle’s campaign. 

When I spoke to Jim Boyle last Friday about David McKinley’s and the McKinley family’s donations to his county executive campaign, he explained that it’s his in-laws. Mr. Boyle said it’s his wife’s family (he said her name is Elizabeth McKinley Boyle). 

I also asked Mr. Boyle about Craig Cole’s donation and he said he knew him from when they worked on mental health issues project (or something) together. 

So, everything Mr. Boyle told me made sense, but it still concerns me a little bit…in the back, way back of my mind. After talking about the campaign contributions from the McKinley family, I decided to ask Mr. Boyle his position on the possibility of a coal terminal at Cherry Point in the future. His first response was that that will never happen there. He also said he would oppose that and would work against it.

Boyle’s explanations were understandable, but for me, I wish he would have just not accepted money from the McKinley family, or from Craig Cole, since both of them are tied directly to the then-proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point and it was such a controversial project here in Whatcom. Mr. Boyle’s decision to accept the donations from David McKinley and other McKinley family members caused me to lose some confidence in his judgement. 

But, then, I’m a pretty picky person.

Comment in response to Sandy’s comment by candidate for Whatcom County Executive, Jim Boyle

Thank you so much for being diligent about researching candidates. And SJ, thank you for your kind words and I’ve enjoyed our conversations! I’d like to share two thoughts: First, I’ve enjoyed many “spirited” family conversations with my in-laws…turns out we disagree on some important issues like coal! For anyone else in families that have “differing opinions,” I imagine you can appreciate these lively conversations over holiday dinners! Secondly, let me be crystal clear, my passion for the last 30+ years has been working to protect the environment and it will always be at the core of who I am. I will never be swayed from my commitment to environmental causes. I encourage anyone who has additional questions or concerns to contact me jim@jimboyleforwhatcom.com. I would really appreciate the opportunity to connect with you.

Comment in response to Sandy’s comment above by Current Whatcom County Council Member and candidate for Whatcom County Council’s At-Large position Carol Frazey:

Sandy, I love and appreciate the work you put into your research. Since I have known Jim Boyle for several years, I feel the need to give my perspective. When running for office, we are told to try to get money for the campaign from our family and friends first. We welcome money from any and all family members no matter if they are Republican, Democrat, Independent, or…. (Raise your hand if you have been a candidate and have taken money from your Republican relative!) Accepting contributions from relatives has no influence on our political views or how you vote. When was the last time your father-in-law’s views influenced yours?!

Jim is a person of integrity. If he says that he opposes a coal terminal, I take him at his word. I respect Jim and know that he is an advocate for the environment.

Comment by Dena Jensen (me) in response to Carol Frazey’s comment above:

Council Member Carol Frazey, I believe your providing information about your personal perceptions regardingt Mr. Boyle’s integrity from having known him for several years is helpful. 

However, to me, it is unfair to reduce, Sandy’s admittedly tentative concerns about Congressman McKinley and his family members donations, $6000 in total to Mr. Boyle’s campaign, to being about Congressman McKinley being a Republican relative. 

Congressman McKinley is an official who continues to actively advance coal projects and we are a community who have borne the burden of the threats of a huge coal project and have had to expend countless hours in opposition to it in defense of our health and safety, and for which the Lummi Nation put their treaty rights on the line to, at last, successfully combat. Congressman McKinley took a legislative action that actually tried to abrogate those treaty rights.

Huge amounts of coal money, and other legislative actions were used to make our job of opposing the Gateway Pacific Terminal nearly impossible. We shouldn’t forget about this. And we shouldn’t fail to let people know that this is something we all need to be watchful about should Mr. Boyle become elected. 

In taking that money, and even the smaller sum from Craig Cole, in my opinion, Mr. Boyle has displayed, at least, an insensitivity to what our community suffered during the fight against GPT. If he is elected, this indicates to me, we may have to deal with other insensitivities he may have to the united work we have done together. 

People should vote by balancing all the aspects of the candidates they encounter, this is one of those aspects of Mr. Boyle and his campaign, along with many, many aspects. But our work will not stop at the ballot box and we all need to remember that.

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