Letters to the Editor, Week of March 8, 2023

March 8, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.


A cursory reading of the otherwise excellent article (CDN Feb. 28, 2023) might leave an impression that it's possible to heat a university campus with clouds. To my knowledge, “district” heating systems require a source of pressurized “live steam” to be piped around underground to heat a cluster of buildings. Examples of such may be found in cities, including New York and Seattle, going back well over a century. Such systems, including the heating systems at Western Washington University and University of Washington (Seattle) require boilers to produce live steam. Over time, these boilers have been fueled by coal, oil and natural gas. Live steam may also provide power to generate electricity. A steam turbine generator will exhaust steam at a lower pressure, still with enough pressure to be piped into a heating system. Such partially exhausted steam, a byproduct of generating electricity at the waterfront PSE Encogen plant, could feasibly be used to heat nearby waterfront buildings. 

Theoretically, if still under sufficient pressure, it could be piped a further distance, to heat the WWU campus. Such distance creates problems in that the steam can begin condensing back into water and lose pressure, in effect rendering it useless for heating or other purposes. Technical fixes to compensate may require an input of energy greater than that produced by the steam being piped.  

Heating nearby buildings with steam produced in the PSE Encogen plant appears to be a win-win situation, rather than condensing all exhausted steam in cooling towers, sending up a column of water vapor at atmospheric pressure. Live steam is an invisible hot dynamic gas under pressure. The manmade cloud seen wafting high above the waterfront is exhausted steam that has been condensed into water vapor — a basically useless though harmless byproduct. A glance at the photo on page A10 could give the impression that the water vapor rising from the cooling tower may be recaptured and used to produce heat. One may hope that the politicians and administrators who make the decisions that could lead to the shutdown of the WWU steam plant have more than a cursory understanding of steam generation. Or as somebody — can't remember who — once said, “You can't get somethin' from nothin'.” 

Paul Kenna 



I was perplexed by Sen. Shewmake’s recent Op-Ed which started out with a discussion of “someone struggling to keep up with rent increases” but then failed to mention the only legislation that would actually regulate rent increases: House Bill 1389.   

We are in a housing crisis, and some of that problem is due to a lack of supply, as the good senator mentioned. But all studies of the bills Sen. Shewmake discussed have shown that while building more housing is necessary, it is not sufficient. Rent increases will continue to price people out of their neighborhoods, taking them away from school districts and family, and pricing the lowest-earning members of our community out of housing entirely.   

If Sen. Shewmake truly wants to help her constituents who are “struggling to keep up with rent increases,” she should throw her support behind House Bill 1389, which would limit rent increases to between 3% and 7% annually. By passing legislation that actually addresses the problem — rent gouging and huge year-over-year rent increases — we can prevent displacement now while we build new housing for future residents. It will require a multi-pronged response to solve our housing crisis: stabilizing rents for current tenants on the verge of displacement, building new housing for the tenants planning to move here and increasing subsidies for the tenants who have already been priced out of the housing market. 

Devin Glaser, Tenant Defense Attorney

King County


I’m writing in support of proposed legislation to help stabilize rent in Washington, specifically Senate Bill 5435.

As a Christian and a pastor, my faith demands that I support people on the margins, and calls me to build a community with room for all. Too often in my work, and in my personal life, I’ve heard stories of local residents whose homes slowly (or suddenly!) become unsustainable because of predatory rent increases.  

I believe we are in a deep and extensive housing crisis in Whatcom County. We need to use many tools to maintain affordable housing, to support unhoused folks, and to build new homes that will be accessible to a wide variety of people. Jesus calls me and my congregation to work on these and other solutions to the brokenness evident in our communities. I hope you will join me in considering whether you, too, are also called to support this bill and others like it.

Rev. Davi C. R. Weasley

First Congregational Church, UCC



Our nation’s budget should reflect the concerns of its citizens. We believe peacebuilding and reconciliation programs represent an important means to facilitate nonviolent conflict resolution. These programs effectively create cultures of peace by bringing together adversarial groups in safe spaces to address divisions and work toward common goals.

Investing in peace not only saves human suffering, but also saves U.S. taxpayer dollars. The Institute for Economics and Peace, in fact, has concluded that every dollar invested in peacebuilding “carries a potential $16 reduction in the cost of armed conflict.” Peacebuilding programs work, they save lives, and they are cost-effective. Unfortunately, U.S. support for this work has been persistently underfunded. In fact, our country spends 200 times more on war than on peacebuilding. We must do better!

We urge Rep. Rick Larsen to strongly advocate for an increase in peacebuilding funding at the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee Member Day Hearing on March 8 as well as at ongoing budgetary talks. Specifically, we urge the following appropriations be included for fiscal year 2024:

  • $40 million to Reconciliation Programs
  • $66 million to the Complex Crises Fund
  • $25 million to Atrocities Prevention Programs

Each of these programs provide critical tools to meet today’s challenges and facilitate the development of a framework toward sustainable peace. 

As U.S. citizens, we are truly alarmed by the recent dramatic growth of violence around the world. More needs to be done in a preventative sense, for all of our sakes. We sincerely hope Rep. Larsen will push for these requests to make a positive difference in our world.

The San Juan Islands Advocacy Team is a group of concerned citizens from the 2nd Congressional District of Washington working with the Friends Committee on National Legislation to lobby Congress for a sane and nonviolent foreign policy.

The San Juan Islands Advocacy Team:
Andy Hiester, Eastsound
Charles Janeway, Lopez Island
Tom Rawson, Eastsound
Linda Ellsworth, Eastsound
Micki Jackson, Bellingham
Allen Stockbridge, Bellingham
Colleen Curtis, Bellingham
Tom Ewell, Clinton
Jerry Graville, Lopez Island
Iris Graville, Lopez Island
Kathy Cope, San Juan Island 


After the approval of Prop 5 in the election last November, for which I voted, I asked in your pages about the absence of any details from the proponents on how the money, if raised, would be spent and also on the relative reluctance of voters outside Bellingham to support the proposition, perhaps because they were not persuaded they would benefit.

Ralph Schwartz’s report in your March 1 edition suggests concern on both counts was warranted. In his report, Schwartz states there was no detailed financial plan at that time, though some work had been done, and only an outline plan was available now. I had asked whether detailed financial information was available as I had found none and no one responded in any manner that I saw. So I ask now, is it appropriate for a proposition for funding of $10 million for 10 years, for however worthy a cause, to be placed on the ballot without such an analysis having been completed and presented?

The outline plan — to use Schwartz’s description — is due to be presented to the council on March 7 following which the council will have two weeks to consider and approve it. This seems very short for a proper review of a new program of this magnitude and longevity or for voters to give their views to their representatives especially given the limited information available. Remarkably little effort seems to have been made to communicate important details of the proposition and build a constituency for it. 

As someone who voted for it and who supports it in principle, I think this is very disappointing. There also, not incidentally, seems to have been no discussion among council members so far concerning the question raised by a fellow letter writer, Ms. Delores Davies, back in November asking why property owners should be the sole source of funding for a program whose beneficiaries potentially include 85% of business owners.

Roger Griffin


(Edited for brevity by the editor)


I encourage readers to contact their state representatives to vote against the WRAP Act (House Bill 1131). This bill will create a recycling tax on all packaging material used in Washington State. This includes milk containers, egg cartons, detergent bottles, cardboard boxes, glass bottles and paper products. The objective of this bill is to encourage consumers to purchase products and packaging that are “environmentally friendly.” The revenue from the tax will be used to expand curbside recycling throughout the state of Washington. The bill will also implement a $0.10 deposit system on all cans and bottles sold in Washington.

There are several problems with this bill. The first is that it is a very regressive tax. Low-income people spend a larger proportion of their income on groceries than high-income people and will pay a disproportionate amount of their income to pay for recycling programs. With many Washingtonians struggling with inflation and high grocery prices, the last thing they need is a new tax. 

The second problem is that the tax revenue will be used to collect all potentially recyclable materials, regardless of their reusability. Some materials, such as paper and cardboard, can be effectively recycled. Plastic is at the other end of the spectrum. Very little plastic can be recycled. Much of it is shipped to countries with lax environmental laws where it is burned or buried in poorly regulated landfills. Some of it ends up in rivers and oceans. For instance, in 2020, the U.S. exported over 119,000 metric tons of plastic waste to Malaysia, the third largest contributor to ocean plastic pollution.  

It makes no sense to burden Washington consumers with the high cost of collecting materials that cannot be recycled. While the WRAP Act is well-intentioned, there is little evidence that it will help the environment, and it will definitely increase consumer prices.  

Chris Sandvig



RE: Whatcom's new climate manager will tackle electrification, carbon storage (Letters to the Editor, CDN, March 1, 2023).

The writer seems to infer (“climate change hysteria”) that climate change is much ado about nothing.

For those of you who may still be in denial about the reality of anthropogenic climate change, I invite you to pick a number, any number between 1 and 36. Then drive over to the roulette table at your favorite local casino, and place everything you own, your home, your boat and RV, along with the future quality of life of your family, on your number. Everything. All in.

Now spin the wheel. Your chance of winning are 1-in-36, or about 3%. Yep ... redefines a sucker’s bet. 

Those odds are about the same as betting against the reality of climate change in which 97% of the CREDIBLE SCIENTIFIC climate community is in irrefutable agreement that man-made climate change is a real and present, and yes, irreversible existential threat to the planet.

Also implicit in this screed is that liberals, especially President Biden, are responsible for all MAGA world’s grievances.

To which I would argue, if a Democratic administration discovered a cure for cancer, the Republicans would complain that it puts doctors out of work.

And by the way, Joe Biden did not cause the breakup of The Beatles.

Michael Kominsky


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