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Letter to the Editor: Has a vision of a Whatcom County steel mill

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Dear Editor of My Ferndale News, Citizens of Ferndale and Whatcom County.

I was born in Bellingham but spent my first 17 years on South Whidbey Island. I enjoy rural living and detest apartment living. People that move here want an environment not spoiled by miles of concrete, polluted air and tainted water. Problem is, unless you have sold multi-million dollar California mansion you may have to work for a living. That is if you are raising your family.

There was a time when people could get a good-paying union job at the cement plant or tissue mill. Those jobs are gone. Many union jobs have gone away because of foreign competition. In order for there to be heavy manufacturing in our future, the State of Washington and our workers must realize that heavy industry requires not only serious dollar investment, but the commitment that the investment will be rewarded with a competent work force willing to work hard and allow the owners to make a good profit. During the good economic times and the not so good times. The steel industry in this country was lost for a time. It is beginning to return. The steel mills of today are mainly mechanized. Most have non-union labor. Business must control the bottom line costs to stay in business competing with foreign producers.

Puget Sound has a mild climate year-round. It is an ideal area for boat building. There are several ship-builders located on Puget Sound. Ship builders here have a disadvantage. Ships must now contain a large percentage of U.S. made steel. Steel mills are mainly located on the east coast and southern states. There is ample need for locating a steel mill here. The Cherry Point Industrial area has an ideal location on Puget Sound and near the Canadian market as well.

As we know from past development failures, there are those that oppose heavy industry. They are of the belief that the burning of coal will destroy our planet. Most of the world does not share that belief. However, coal is a dirty fuel and is best avoided. I have found a fellow that can melt scrap steel with a specially designed natural gas-fired burner. I am convinced that a larger version of his “combustor” modified to burn a secondary fuel (liquified waste plastic) could easily provide the high temperature needed to melt scrap iron. The plastic liquid could be carefully metered in a manner to provide complete combustion, therefore no black particulate or foul odors. Steel contains iron and carbon. The carbon is usually provided by coal “graphite”. In order to avoid the use of coal, I would propose using scrap wood or bales of low-grade cardboard for the production of carbon.

China may no longer be interested in disposing of our recycled waste. Someone needs to step up. I believe that IF we can get a reasonably-sized pier designed and permitted to serve the combined needs of the industrial property at Cherry Point, We may very well be able to build a reasonably-sized steel mill to produce alloy steel for the local ship-building industry. That means JOBS for our FUTURE. I hope that you share my vision.


Bill LaFreniere
North Bellingham
Candidate for Whatcom County Council. (At Large, Position B.)

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  1. dave doran May 22, 2019

    Never mind that a new pier at Cherry Point has been permanently ruled-out by Lummi Nation fishing rights, and rightly so.
    “…an environment not spoiled by miles of concrete, polluted air and tainted water.” I’d stick with that if you wanna win a seat on the council.

  2. Ryan Walter May 22, 2019


    Thank you for your common sense approach to the local economy. You have my support.

    Jobs and profits create wealth and make America strong. Resistance to economic progress for the purpose of virtue signalling destroys wealth, makes us weak and strengthens our economic competitors.

  3. Brian Jones May 22, 2019

    WOW! You got a free political ad! Another would be politician with his pie-in-the-sky personal agenda. No more development at Cherry Point!

  4. Ryan Walter May 24, 2019


    WRONG: No (yadda yadda) with an exclamation point at the end
    RIGHT: Sensible development at Cherry Point to balance job opportunity and environmental protection, no exclamation point needed

    WRONG: accusations of a personal agenda
    RIGHT: civil dialogue

Comments are closed.

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