Thursday, October 15, 2009

October 2009 Fidley Watch: From the Publisher

Foss Maritime Company Vice President of Harbor Services Dave Hill opened our inaugural GreenPacific Conference by extolling all attendees to act as individuals, privately and publicly, to ensure that their companies act in an environmentally responsible manner. “Cargo will continue to move in and out of West Coast ports”, said Hill. “As those responsible for the physical movement of that cargo, it’s up to each one of us to determine how most responsibly to move it.”

From Hill’s opening comments, collaborative engagement developed as the theme for GreenPacific 2009, produced by Pacific Maritime Magazine in partnership with Foss Maritime Company. We need to work together as an industry to move that cargo responsibly.

State Lands Commission Marine Facilities Chief Gary Gregory first articulated the concept early during the first session: “Engage industry at the outset and they will solve the problem.”

Throughout the day, 100 conference attendees from industry, port agencies and engineering firms discussed the importance of engaging the entire spectrum of stakeholder groups when developing environmental policy, legislation …and regulatory application.

Western Petroleum Association’s Bob Poole and Herbert Engineering Chairman Keith Michel both commented on the misperception among many that the maritime industry is largely unregulated. “We’re among the most regulated industries in the nation,” said Michel, before embarking on a dizzying summary of the regulations affecting just the vessel owner.

Richard Cameron from the Port of Long Beach and Wayne Grotheer from the Port of Seattle gave an overview of their respective ports’ philosophy on responsible environmental stewardship, and discussed how they engage with regulators on behalf of industry when and where they can. The uniquely sensitive position in which public ports find themselves during regulatory review processes was not lost on the industry members in attendance. Environmental special interest groups are particularly adept at forcing public agencies to hear public comment ad nauseam, delaying and obfuscating what should be a much simpler and more straightforward attempt at balancing economic, community and environmental concerns fairly and equitably.

BNSF’s LaDonna DiCamillo and Aston+Bird’s Sharon Rubalcava described in detail the environmental review process and the difficulty of advancing responsible development in the current regulatory environment. The California State Lands Commission seemed the most collaborative of the regulatory agencies involved in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process. Ironically, the California State Lands Commission was also the only regulatory agency in attendance at GreenPacific 2009.

The conference was universally appreciated by those in attendance, but exit surveys revealed a common theme: Where were the regulators and environmental groups? Though we made a concerted effort to engage regulators and the environmental community our offers were declined. It was impressive that almost one hundred members of the maritime industry’s private sector responded actively to our GreenPacific initiative. It was disappointing that the regulatory community did not. We’ll continue our efforts to engage them in the conversation.

Peter Philips, Publisher