Some 200,000 at risk of lethal gas

Whatcom County, Washington

Hi again, from the Shores of the Salish SeaWell, if this report by Investigate West is anywhere near accurate ~ and we strongly suspect it is accurate in its entirety ~ some 200,000 people in the northwest corner of Washington State and southern British Columbia are at risk of being poisoned by the hydrofluoric acid being used by the local ConocoPhilips refinery.  Apparently most of the population ~ including those charged with emergency preparedness ~ were unaware of the risks.  CP knew about them but apparently chose to accept the risk and took the decision out of the people who would be most directly affected by an accident or an act of terrorism.

This was particularly disturbing to me because I’ve lived in that area and I love the people, the small towns, the county seat, the university and how the citizens of Whatcom County and Surrey Township in British Columbia have made the green/environmental movement a reality in one of the most picturesque places on earth.  I also thought enough of the spirit of that pocket of the Pacific Northwest to use it as a locale in my novel Wrath of the Testament

These people are not just dreamers, they get things done.  They are idealistic and also capable of the compromises necessary for realistic self-government.  They are not stylish but they do have a culture woven of many influences, most of them very close to the land, the sea and the sky.  With mountains to the south and east, the Fraser River Valley to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west, this is also a land to which self-sufficiency is a survival pre-requisite.

It does not surprise me that ConocoPhilips didn’t advertise this aspect of their operation but that’s only because I’m cynical about the ethics and sense of responsibility of the petrochemical industry as a whole.  I was certain that there were cheaper, safer and more logistically feasible alternatives to the deadly chemical and there are.  I was not shocked to find out that Whatcom County is not the only place in this nation facing the same risk.  All told, it appears there are 16-miillion of us.

My thanks to Investigative West for breaking this story because I know they’ll be reading it in Bellingham, Birch Bay, Blaine, Ferndale and Lynden.  And they will not be happy campers.  They’ve lost people to this kind of deception before and their patience is running out.

I hope that ConocoPhilips has the good sense to do what any prudent company would do and that is switch to a safer chemical in the refining process and do not amortize the cost by raising the price of the product.  Accept that you should have done this a long time ago and that you were lucky to get away without doing it this long.  That’s going to be the end result, one way or another.  But these are rural Washingtonians who are a lot like colonial Americans and Canadians of another era.

And I, for one, would not want those people mad at me.


 In the wake of the earthquake which devastated Christchurch, New Zealand, researchers have revealed that Western Washington State and particularly the Puget Sound and Seattle areas are much more trembler prone than thought a decade ago when the Nisqually Quake struck the emerald city.  New seismic technology has revealed ten more faults than the two previously known.  Government on all levels is reacting, along with citizens groups, to reevaluate how prepared the region is for a major trembler and what measures need to be taken in these regards.  For an excellent video on what we’ve leaned about earthquakes in the last ten years, please go here

We were not disappointed to learn that Wikileaker Julian Assange faces extradition to Sweden, where he will face charges of sexual assault.  His attorneys have said they will appeal the decision to the highest court in England but the British are not expected to reverse their ruling.  They consider  sexual crimes of which Assange is accused “extraditable”, regardless of who is charged with them and from where.  We concur with that interpretation of English law.

 Any government abuse of power and authority is an affront to every American and when it victimizes a naturalized citizen and United States Army combat veteran, the insult is particularly egregious.  This involved Homeland Security, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement staff at a detainment center in Tacoma Washington, and a black man born in Belize.  The upshot is that this also included an apology and a cash settlement.  It stands in our mind another reason for continued vigilance on the part of the very people government is designed to serve. 

If it seems like all of northern Africa, its east coast and several of its neighbors are in various stages of rebellion against the government, that is probably because it is, in fact, true.  For a brief overview, please go here.


Our congratulations to Christy Clark, our favourite liberal and radio show host, for being elected premier of British Columbia.  Known for her consensus building and her dignity and grace, she told outgoing Premier Gordon Campbell, “Gordon, you leave B.C. far better off than you found it.”  For a cute salmon farming commercial and to see this remarkable woman in action, please go here.

 Three Vancouver Island men proved that both miracles exist and that preparedness pays off.  The trio lost control of their care Saturday night and ended up plunging into the icy Gordon River.  Not only did they survive the ordeal, they did not display even mild symptoms of hypothermia.  For more on this, please go here.

Canadian Grammy winner Nelly Furtado was paid $1-million to perform a private show for Muammar al-Qaddafi, his family and guests at a hotel in Italy in 2007.  Nelly announced this week that she was donating that check to charity.  That’s a pretty expensive political statement but it is also consistent with this particularl entertainer and certainly with Canadian national character.

Felina:  I am reading about this place with these huge steel tanks and shiny pipes and an aroma I have not experienced since Mount St. Helens erupted.  It appears that this strange site is devoted to turning something which the planet buried a very long time ago into something which has become at once so vital to them and yet so destructive it threatens all life on earth.  To make this substance, a very lethal chemical compound is used.  If there were an accident ~ as sometimes happens with this human enterprise ~ the loss to fauna and flora would be widespread and profound.  Apparently, none of the humans who live near this metallic Medusa have known about this and therefore, have not prepared themselves.

Sam:    I’m going to take a shot at this and say it’s not Disneyland By the Salish Sea we’re talking about here.

Felina:  Quite so.  It is the ConocoPhilips oil refinery in this place not so far west from us which humans named after a forest shrub.

Sam:    I’m guessing the small town of Ferndale, Washington, on this one, Felina.

Felina:  Yes, that Ferndale.  And the beautiful ocean, mountains and forests all around.  It seems so odd to have this toxic time bomb in such an otherwise pristine and life enhancing land.

Sam:    I’ve got a feeling that’s happened a couple of times before, Lass.

Felina:  Samuel, sometimes you are as intelligent as you are handsome, oh sun and moon of my life.

Sam:    Thank you again, oh stars and galaxies of mine, for reminding me that I can still blush.

Felina:  We know what the other species thought when the red humans first came here.

Sam:    Yep, good company, for the most part.  But then came the Industrial Humans.

Felina:  And there, of course, went the neighbourhood.

Sam:    I can understand your frustration, Felina.  Particularly when, as the red humans knew, there’s so much sun, wind, running water and tidal power to draw on.

Felina:  And on those places where Industrial Humans grow fruits and vegetables and tame animals, the methane from the beasts of burden or of pantry.

Sam:    Yep.  And none of it requires miles of pipeline, lethal chemicals or a level seismic playing field.

Felina:  And in a place they call a state, where there are now these very quiet electric vehicles which draw energy from little plugs in small metal boxes.

Sam:    And one of them is named after something on a plant.

Felina: Quite so, the Nissan Leaf.  And these “charging stations,” I believe they are called, they are becoming very popular.

Sam:    From Victoria, British Columbia to San Diego, California, they’ve electrified a transportation corridor about 1100 miles/1800 km long.

Felina:  Where there are still these machines which dispense the liquid buried in the earth for their transportation units which still use them.

Sam:    Yep, and before that, where they sold oats and hay and lodging for the beasts they rode before they created their own.

Felina:  From hitching post to high voltage, as it were, then, eh?

Sam:    Yep.  And all in considerably less planetary time than it takes to produce a barrel of crude oil or a ton of coal.

Felina:  I see.  Progress in planetary time.

Sam:    That’s not working for you is it, Felina?

Felina:  It most certainly is not.

Sam:    At the risk of treading where even human angels allegedly have better sense, oh mate of mine down the decades, what does work for you, then?

Felina:  If that plant must remain, draw up a lease and a short one.  Require the facility to use less toxic alternatives and to shut down until and as such a transition is made.  Educate all of the humans in the effected area and utilise existing citizen groups in a watchdog capacity.  Phase the facility out while promoting the other forms of energy.  Save and store the energy of the sun, the wind, the rivers and streams, and the tides.  And market the surplus.

Sam:    That plant’s gotta go, right?

Felina:  Yes, that plant must go.

Sam:    And on that note, Lass?

Felina:  Of course.  On that note, gentle readers, until next time, may the Creator bless and keep you. 


 Sometimes surviving hard times is also about staying in shape to enjoy the good times which invariably follow the bad, especially for the caring and good of heart.  Here’s an exercise regimen you can do that sounds like it doesn’t involve even breaking a sweat.   It takes 20 minutes and it is called, appropriately enough, the  No-Shower-No-Change-of-Clothes Workout.


Looking east from Wallingford, in North Seattle to the Cascade Mountains


Population:                      612.000

Greater Seattle Area      3,707,400

Area:                            84 sq mi/217 sq km

Density:                        7,286 people per sq mi/2,821 per sq km

Annual Rainfall:             36.2 inches/92 cm

Compared to:

San Francisco                     19.5 in —  50 cm

Chicago                                34.5 in —  88 cm

Dallas                                   37.1 in –  94 cm

Washington, DC                  39.0 in —  99 cm

New York City                      40.3 in –102 cm


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Does brushing your hair 100 strokes a day really make it shine?  Should you shampoo every day?  Are eggs really good for your hair?  These and other common questions about hair care are answered here.

 Are you eating foods that build strong bones?  Most healthy people are.  But are you also eating foods or too much of foods which actually weaken bones?  To find out, go here.

 ON THE CANCER FRONT:  In dedication to Shannon Patricia Goddard, 1962 – 2001

 Occasionally, I think it is a good idea to step back for an overview of this ominous disease.  This video takes a hard look at the environment of cancer, at what causes it and what fosters its growth.  It is a fact versus fiction scenario and well worth the 3 minutes, 40 seconds and despite the cute five-second commercial for a local college in the beginning.  Yep, for this one, go here.



 Seattle is still reacting to the unnecessary killing of a First Nation woodcarver shot while resisting arrest last year.  Despite the resignation of the law enforcement officer involved, censure by the Department and the official termination of a career, protests continue and two of them have turned violent.  The brother of the slain woodcarver is now calling for peace and we find this not only remarkable but extremely exemplary human behavior.  For details, please go here.

 Whenever the protection of the environment does not come at the expense of those who live there but instead goes that one step farther to demonstrate the value to all concerned, it needs to be shared.  This is about big trees on Vancouver Island, off the coast of British Columbia, Canada.  In my mind, it applies to any “old growth” we hold dear so yep, for more on this one, please go here.

 For as much ice and snow as our seven flags have had this winter, bicycling as a way to improve the economy may not be a hearth-warming topic of interest.  On the other hand, spring and warmer temperatures are still going to happen and at least where I live, pedaling is both a respected and viable alternative to pushing pedals.  So if you want to take a short break and live a month or so into the future, go here.  We did and we enjoyed it.


 Charlie Sheen, please get over yourself.  It’s very apparent who the half man is on your television show.  Your private life isn’t nearly as interesting as that sitcom and that sitcom was culture candy for most of us.  If you can’t do cool, could you at least do profound jerk with a bit less sound and fury?  With all due respect to Martin, Emilio and the rest of the family?


 Finding Rootedness is perhaps the most empowering blog we have yet come across for those of us who value positive and empowering alternatives.  This one is for the window pushers among us.  It offers not only solid alternatives to the chaos but news of where these options are being successfully implemented.

 Irish Newsletter is an outstanding pocket source of Irish life, politics and times.  Particularly well written are their news snaps (shorts) which ~ according to friends of mine in Erin ~ literally tell it like it is.  While the Republic of Ireland’s population is only about 4.5-million, there are an estimated 80 million people of Irish descent worldwide and email version of this reached 50,000 of them.

  Rusty Miller – Writer/Editor For Hire is my professional home page.  Contracts I receive through this site help finance The Northstar Journal.

 Sightline Daily is the best Pacific Northwest source of environmentally friendly news we’ve encountered yet.  They draw from newspapers and National Public Radio sources in Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington State.

 The Northstar Gallery features photography of Seattle available as postcards, computer wallpaper and workspace art.   






The Northstar General Store is a truly unique online shopping experience and reflects what you, the readers, have said interests you the most.  Whether it’s a specialty food item for that proverbial someone who has everything else or just to browse with some discretionary capital to spend on a whim, you’ll find everything from quality camping gear to interesting CDs, DVDs and books to totally fun and otherwise useless toys, women and men’s apparel and a wide variety of other items and wares you simply will not find under a single roof anywhere else on the Net.  And by shopping here, you help us pay our bills.  To enter and check it out, please click the picture of the store above. 

Words Matter: How Media Can Build Civility or Destroy It is a “Should Read” for any of us involved in the communication of the written word. 

Wrath of the Testament, an exciting seagoing saga of war and rebellion, is now available for $3.99 at 

Yes magazine is the online Life and Look of the Internet combined and their present series “What Happy Families Know is both insightful and inspirational.


 Like most of you folks, we go hot butter over a good dog loves human story.  We like it even better when the subject of that affection returns it.  What particularly caught us about this article is its Mechanics Illustrated, eco-friendly spin.  It is about a guy who so loves his best canine friend that he built the pooch a totally “green” doghouse.  For a photo and more, please go here.

 And giving equal time to “the other species,” it’s been contended that one cannot educate an aging canine but nothing like that has ever been said about a cat, including one that goes jogging with its owner.  For more and a couple of cool videos, please go here.

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We so love it when good manners spread and as of this week, ten TriMet buses in Portland, Oregon will inform pedestrians ~ in a real nice feminine voice ~ that they are commencing a turn.  Eight other cities in the United States are trying this out and two of them, Baltimore, Maryland and Cleveland, Ohio, have decided to install them on all their buses.  Yep, for more, go here.

 Well, that’s it for this week.  If you enjoyed this edition and would like to contribute to the next,


 And if you’re in a shopping mood and into some interesting choices?  We have a “reader stocked” General Store that you might want to check out.  We’ve stocked a bit of everything from camping gear and cookware, specialty food items, books, music, films and fun/interesting/weird things that just somehow found their way onto the shelves at night when we were asleep.

The Northstar General Store, A Memorable Shopping Experience

 If you would like to sell something with us or know someone who does, email us at and we’ll see what we can do.  See you next time.  Be well.


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