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Stop the Coal Trains

Everybody knows that coal trains are bad for our health, our economy, and our planet. So how do we stop them?

Stop the Coal Trains

COAL CARS SPEW DUST AS THEY RUMBLE DOWN THE TRACKS 500 pounds to a ton of coal can escape from a single car.

You might have heard the talk: Coal interests are pushing to make the Pacific Northwest a 24-hour conveyor belt linking coal mines in Montana and Wyoming with Asian markets clamoring for cheap, dirty power. The most urgent fight is currently taking place just north of Bellingham at Cherry Point, the site of a proposed coal-export terminal that would be the largest in North America.

Why should someone in Seattle care about a coal terminal 100 miles north of the city? Because coal combustion is the leading human-caused increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, which is largely responsible for global warming. Because shipping dirty coal to China while piously shutting down the last coal-fired power plant in Washington State (as the state is doing) would simultaneously mock and cheapen our forward-thinking, tree-humping pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2050. And because there is not just one but five coal terminals—five!—currently proposed in the Northwest, each of which could bring 1.5-mile-long coal trains rumbling through our region daily, blocking traffic, interfering with other business at Seattle's port, and leaving clouds of coal dust in their wake.

State and federal agencies are currently wrapping up a three-month public comment period to determine which environmental, economic, and health impacts should be studied before issuing or denying the Cherry Point terminal's permits. Thousands of Washington residents have flocked to seven scheduled public meetings held around the state to oppose the proposal, 10,000 have submitted comments to the state Department of Ecology, 25,000 have submitted comments to the Army Corps of Engineers, and more than 40,000 people have signed a petition that's been sent to the state's land commissioner.

And yet, a lot of people still don't know about the issue, don't understand it, or don't have an opinion. Not having an opinion on coal is like not having an opinion on climate change. And this isn't just an environmental issue. It's an economic issue. It's a health issue. It's an issue of priorities. Here's all you need to know before the public comment period ends on January 21.

The Largest Coal-Export Terminal on the Continent

In February 2011, international shipping- terminal firm SSA Marine applied for permits to build a $500 million coal-export terminal outside Bellingham at Cherry Point, right next to a state-protected aquatic reserve and smack on top of a Native American burial ground (more on that later). The proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal would occupy nearly 1,500 acres of land, about 100 acres of which would be converted into a large open-air coal stockyard with stunning panoramic views of the Strait of Georgia and its closest neighbor, the state aquatic reserve, home to more than 300 blue heron nests and a metric fuckton of fish.

Roughly five million tons of coal is currently transported through Washington State each year to Canadian ports. This translates to about six coal trains per day (three full, three empty). The Gateway Pacific Terminal would dwarf that, shipping out 48 million tons of coal annually, circuitously hauled from sprawling strip mines in the Powder River Basin (PRB) of Montana and Wyoming. Calls to the company behind the Gateway Pacific Terminal were not returned, but the facts of its proposal are well known. Each day, 18 trains (nine full, nine empty), stretching 1.5 miles long each, would complete the journey to the Washington Coast, trundling at average speeds of 35 miles per hour through Spokane and the Columbia River Gorge, and up the coast through Longview, Tacoma, Seattle, Edmonds, Everett, Mount Vernon, and Bellingham, and back. Each train would delay traffic at railway crossings five minutes on average. (Gateway Pacific Terminal estimates delays at four minutes, while other groups have estimated seven minutes.) According to a city-commissioned traffic impact study, traffic along Seattle's waterfront could be cumulatively delayed between one and three hours each day, significantly impacting commuter traffic, emergency vehicle response times, and freight operations at the Port of Seattle.

"It would create a wall along our waterfront," said Mayor Mike McGinn. "The data suggests there will be more frustrations, with more bikers, drivers, and pedestrians 'shooting the gap' to get across—which means the potential for more accidents."

Toxic Dust, Derailments, and Spontaneous Combustion

Coal cars are typically uncovered, constantly spewing dust as they rumble down the tracks. As BNSF Railway acknowledged in a startlingly frank 2011 coal dust fact sheet, "The amount of coal dust that escapes from PRB coal trains is surprisingly large... from 500 lbs to a ton of coal can escape from a single loaded coal car." According to BNSF, as much as 3 percent of the coal loaded into a coal car can be lost in transit: "In many areas, a thick layer of black coal dust can be observed along the railroad right of way and in between the tracks." Aside from the health risks of inhaling coal dust, the railway explains that accumulated coal dust on tracks may cause derailments. At least 22 coal trains jumped the tracks in the United States in 2012.

Coal proponents argue that the dust can be mitigated by installing new, better coal chutes and applying "topper agents" to the coal cars. But there's another risk when shipping PRB coal: It's notoriously spontaneously combustible.

"Operators familiar with the unique requirements of burning PRB coal will tell you that it's not a case of 'if' you will have a PRB coal fire, it's 'when,'" notes a 2003 article published by the coal industry group Utility FPE Group Inc. The article continues, "Although prevention is cheaper than repairing fire and explosion damage, its costs always seem difficult to justify."

"Spontaneous combustion of coal is a well-known phenomenon, especially with PRB coal," states an industry research paper called "PRB Coal Degradation—Causes and Cures." "This high-moisture, highly volatile sub-bituminous coal will not only smolder and catch fire while in storage piles at power plants and coal terminals, but has been known to be delivered to a power plant with the rail car or barge partially on fire."

It's probably inaccurate to picture mile-long flaming coal train cars inching across the state, says the Northwest environmental research organization Sightline Institute: "The threat is likely to be more insidious—slowly smoldering coal that is perhaps emitting noxious gases into neighboring communities. Yet the severity and toxicity of these gases are largely unknown."

Some of the worst health effects would be felt in the communities surrounding Cherry Point. The terminal's port would be large enough to berth three cargo ships at once. Coal would be conveyed from the 100-acre coal stockyard along a 1,250-foot trestle linking ships to shore. Heavy machinery would troll the coal piles, continuously rotating them to discourage combustion, kicking up even more coal dust with each turn.

Pneumoconiosis, Bronchitis, Emphysema, and Lymphoma

Common sense and science tell us that working with coal will shorten your life span. The US Department of Labor links coal dust to pneumoconiosis, regular bronchitis, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, "rapidly developing lung damage," and premature death in exposed workers. It's also been known to cause lymphoma and adrenal tumors in test animals.

But alarmingly, very little research has been done on the nonoccupational environmental health effects of coal dust on people. Here's what we do know: Coal dust contains concentrations of heavy metals including arsenic, lead, mercury, and cadmium. Furthermore, rainwater runoff from coal stockpiles can leach into the soil and contaminate groundwater that people and animals drink.

"We're concerned about increased air pollution and the effects it can have on patients," testified Dr. Melissa Weakland at a public hearing on the Gateway Pacific Terminal held in Seattle's convention center on December 13. Speaking on behalf of the Washington Academy of Family Physicians, Dr. Weakland also echoed concerns about delays in emergency response time, heavy metal poisoning, pulmonary problems, and cancer. "Many health specifics in this proposal are left unanswered," Dr. Weakland said.

Growing Public Opposition

The Seattle public hearing was the last of seven held around the state. The meetings were crowded, tense, and predominantly packed with protesters—including heavy hitters like Seattle mayor Mike McGinn, a handful of Tacoma and Seattle city council members, King County executive Dow Constantine, and state representatives Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34) and Reuven Carlyle (D-36). But the most moving testimony came from a 12-year-old.

"I appreciate the natural wonders of this state," testified Rachel Howell of Queen Anne to a packed convention center ballroom. "I like salmon. I like oysters. Global warming is threatening salmon and oysters. I like to ski at Snoqualmie Pass. In my lifetime, I will not be able to ski at Snoqualmie Pass because of global warming. This is the future you're creating for us, and this is not the future we want. It's pretty simple, even I understand: If you make coal more available, more people will use it."

We can't fight global warming by exporting our carbon: It's an issue that's simple enough for a 12-year-old to understand. The rest of us? That remains to be seen.

Lobbying in support of the coal terminal is the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports, a pro-coal group formed last July to counter all of the bad press about heron habitat, heart disease, and spontaneous combustion. The Alliance is composed of 54 organizations representing almost 400,000 employees in Washington, Oregon, and "around the country," according to spokeswoman Lauri Hennessey. The group has downplayed health and statewide environmental concerns.

"It's impossible to consider the cumulative impact of coal trains; it's purely speculative," said labor union representative and Alliance member Herb Krohn at the December 13 public meeting. "Coal is a naturally occurring mineral, the coal dust discharged is minimal, and this argument that it impacts health is specious at best."

Hennessey would not address specific environmental or health risks raised by citizens directly, saying only: "If people have concerns, they should write those concerns in." If the government's environmental impact study sees fit to address those concerns, "we'll do whatever mitigation is necessary," she adds.

Meanwhile, the group is purported to have spent $1 million in television ads in the Northwest to transform coal trains into huggable, huffing economic engines (Hennessey would neither confirm nor deny the amount spent, only calling it "sizable"). They claim the terminal will bring in $25 million in new tax revenue once built, as well as 4,400 new jobs, most of which would be two-year construction jobs. Gateway Pacific Terminal has promised the project would create 294 to 430 permanent local jobs.

But critics say that the job numbers don't take into account the many careers the Cherry Point coal terminal would destroy.

"Anyone who claims that this massive coal project is about jobs had better learn to subtract," testified Pete Knutson, a 40-year career fisherman, owner of the Loki Fish Company based out of Ballard, and a commissioner on the Puget Sound Salmon Commission (WSDA). "We have 15,000 fishery jobs in Puget Sound; now our marine livelihoods are at stake. A job is not necessarily a livelihood. We're weighing jobs based on the one-time exploitation of a fossil fuel versus livelihoods based on a sustainable resource. We have a moral obligation to reject this proposal."

Cargo operations at the Port of Seattle would also be threatened, both from the increased traffic through Sodo and from competition for scarce rail capacity. Washington's freight rail system is already pushing its limits—18 additional coal trains a day would drive up prices for other shippers.

Opposition to the terminals is mounting: More than three dozen cities, counties, and ports, close to 600 health professionals, 220 faith leaders, and more than 450 local businesses have either voiced concern or come out against coal export off the West Coast. Many tribal governments, including the Lummi Nation, have also organized to oppose coal export after terminal contractors were issued a cease-and-desist order in June 2011 for bulldozing sacred Lummi burial grounds without permits.

"Cherry Point is flagged as a cemetery. That's not oral history, that's fact," Lummi Nation spokesman Jay Julius says. "That is our Jerusalem. That is our holy ground."

Three dozen municipalities, including the Seattle City Council, have passed symbolic resolutions in outright opposition to the proposals or at the very least demanding that state and federal agencies execute a full, comprehensive environmental impact study (EIS) on the cumulative impacts of coal trains and exports.

"I'm here speaking on behalf of dozens and dozens of state officials who've all called for a comprehensive, cumulative impact analysis to this proposal," testified Representative Carlyle at the December 13 Seattle hearing. "That means a thorough, data driven analysis of the economic externalities of this proposal—the transportation, the health, the safety impacts that our communities will face. We're asking you to acknowledge that most communities don't have the resources to do their own economic analysis. It's critical that this EIS be thorough, be data driven, and recognize the profound implications on our quality of life."

What You Can Do to Stop the Coal Trains

Interstate commerce laws prevent local authorities from outright blocking coal trains from passing through their jurisdictions, so the only way to stop the trains is to stop the terminals. But the path to blocking the Gateway Pacific Terminal and other terminal proposals in Longview, Washington, and Boardman, St. Helens, and Coos Bay, Oregon, is murky. Each terminal is being pushed by separate coal interests and each faces its own timeline and permitting process for approval. Opponents fear that if one proposal goes through, the amount of coal they plan on shipping will increase exponentially to meet market demands.

"The coal industry has already lied about the amount of coal they were planning on shipping out of Longview," says Krista Collard, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club. "When that was discovered, they had to pull permit applications and refile." A spokesperson for Millennium Bulk Terminals, the organization behind the Longview proposal, didn't respond to a request for comment.

In order to proceed with the coal terminals, companies must first secure development permits from local county councils, aquatic lease permits from public lands commissioner Peter Goldmark, and approval for the projects from the state Department of Ecology and federal Army Corps of Engineers. The biggest challenge, opponents say, is to orchestrate killing all five of the proposals at once—not just the terminal at Cherry Point.

"It's not about one entity, it's about the big picture," explains Kimberly Larson, a spokeswoman for Climate Solutions, which is working with the Sierra Club and other environmental groups to organize Northwest opposition efforts in both Oregon and Washington. "They're all in play at the same time, and that's why it's important to show the collective resistance across the region. If one goes through, it will affect all of us." For instance, coal trains headed to Oregon would still trundle through Spokane and the Columbia River Gorge, impacting communities along the way and clogging Washington's freight rail system. You can help Climate Solutions and the Sierra Club by writing letters opposing the terminals to Commissioner Goldmark (cpl@dnr.wa.gov), the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Washington State Department of Ecology (eisgatewaypacificwa.gov/get-involved/comment), as well as to your state, county, and city representatives.

Protesters already helped kill one coal terminal last summer, slated for Grays Harbor. "After hearing from the community, the terminal said that they wanted to ship friendlier, healthier items than coal out there," Collard explains.

That's the sort of victory coal train opponents hope to achieve throughout the Northwest. "We share a vision for a better future," testified King County executive Dow Constantine at Seattle's public hearing on the Cherry Point terminal. "Our vision doesn't include 18 trains a day pulling those coal cars through the heart of Washington. This isn't just a regional issue; it's a global issue and a generational issue. In Washington, we have done away with coal-fired plants, but shipping overseas will overwhelm the gains we've made here at home."

A 12-year-old couldn't have said it any better. recommended

 

Comments (88) RSS

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88
Attended Tacoma's Freedom Fair July 4; we're from out of town. In walking to the beach area crowds were stopped at the train tracks by a COAL TRAIN with heaven only knows how many cars full of coal -- and you could see the coal clearly piled high -- 40 train cars or so . . . . and no one blinked an eye or seemed to care. Is society really that numb and dumb? Wish I'd known that was going to go through town then and would have loved to have seen protestors or some kind of signage -- would have been a perfect opportunity to educate some folks about this shameful impact to Mother Earth. But then, this Is not the age of Aquarius, it's the age of deceit, destruction and GREED.
Posted by Bonnielou on July 8, 2014 at 11:46 AM · Report this
87
Cienna, just looked at your cute little map of the N.W. with the little animals that would CERTAINLY be extinct within minutes of a coal train passing by. Where in the hell did you come up with the B.S. about 500lbs per ton of dust from each rail car? Are you a republican? I don't think I have read so many lies since the last republican convention! You're way off track in your facts.
Posted by longwayhome on November 26, 2013 at 7:40 PM · Report this
86
Now that the Boeing Machinists have effectively trashed our economy, we will need the revenue from the coal export facilities. The transportation issues are minimal. What freaking coal dust? Coal trains have been rolling through Seattle for many years and just now we are hearing from the "bandwagon, birkenstock, volvo driving crybabies"that know little or nothing about the elaborate plans for safety and minimizing the pollution hazards from the transport and transfer of coal to the large ships that will carry it far, far away with a tidy compensation for Puget Sound. Read up on it you guys, it ain't as bad as some would have it to be.
Posted by longwayhome on November 26, 2013 at 7:20 PM · Report this
85
"if they don't buy our coal they'll buy someone else's coal"

if we let the coal go through, they will get the coal here AND somewhere else. the more humans burn, the bigger the impact. if we deny power plants this enormous supply of coal, we keep the commodity scarce and deny access to the lower bidders

"if they don't ship coal from WA they'll ship it from somewhere else"

the Pac Rim is where the factories want the coal. BC, OR, and CA are the feasible Pac coast options for coal export. all progressive, as N. America goes. a trend of refusal seems plausible. weed, gays and do gooder consumersim have gone pop out here. in 2011 we saw regime toppling go pop in N. Africa, of all places. BC has already been brave in poo pooing Harper's Pac Rim tar sands pipeline. CA is starting to get riled up about the fracking

if there are only a couple of export outlets on the Pac coast, the longshoremen at those outlets have a strong negotiating position and cut into the per-hopper profitability and thus reduce the volume of export. the longer, the more circuitous, the more heavily trafficked the train route the lower the per-hopper profitability and the lower the volume of exports.

if we can slow them or stop them by denying them tehse points of market entry we achieve a significant reduction vs. what would ship and burn if left unfettered

"if you want to save the planet stop consuming, stop driving etc"

denying fossil fuel energy to the countries with the lowest unit labor costs will effectively make global consumption more expensive and thereby reduce it

"jobs"

selling coal to manufacturing cocuntries facilitates labor arbitrage which lowers the wages of workers here and reduces the number of manufacturing jobs here which are still many, and also generally reduces demand as a loewr share of returns goes to labor over there and labor represents the majority of consumer demand

so basically it fucks with employment

More...
Posted by alfresco on November 26, 2013 at 2:59 PM · Report this
84
Whatever you do, it will not matter if Obama gets his way with the Trans Pacific Partnership and the TAFTA.

http://www.democracynow.org/2013/10/4/a_…

http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2013/05/…
Posted by Concilium on October 7, 2013 at 11:58 AM · Report this
83
@#72,

Just finished the form asking about the noise and also the impact on property values...

Seriously, this is a disaster waiting to happen and I can't believe anyone would consider this egregious proposal.

Thx
Posted by Thx on August 5, 2013 at 5:26 PM · Report this
82
I live in Auburn WA only a few hundred feet from the tracks and let me tell you the noise is unbearable as it is now!

Trains are noisiest when they run slowly, the screeching is as loud as a siren and can last for 5 minutes or more.

Trains also park for hours and when the slack is taken up it sounds like thunder crashing all the way down the line and this repeats every minute or so.

What I mention above is a LOT of noise, much more than what most people associate with trains: the whistle.

Gosh, imagine how many babies and old folks and just everyone who will never get a night's sleep again! (Heck, they classify sleep deprivation as torture... correct?)

And to think that this coal will go to China to be burned and rain down more mercury on us, I will no longer buy Washington produce as it is now...

Think about this issue folks, it seems the idea that "This just isn't us!~" really sums it all up.

We certainly deserve better, please don't let this happen!

Thx
Posted by Thx on August 5, 2013 at 4:49 PM · Report this
81
You're right.. a 12 year old couldn't have said it any better.. nor would a 12 year be more ignorant or hypocritical.. Coal provides the energy that powers almost half this country's needs and the coal that is shipped to Asia from the Powder River Basin helps replace and reduce the dirty lower quality polluting coal that most of Asia is now burning.. So rather than complaining about things you obviously fail to understand or are too ignorant to learn, perhaps you could educate yourself of the facts or go back to candle-power rather than being a hypocrite a driving your fuel-burning car before returning home to cook your dinner with electricity or make your coffee whilst you concoct your ill-foundered lies and effusive garbage.. The country needs the income and also the jobs, not everyone is paid to elicit such ignorant and unsupported bias and hypocracy.. Suggest you get a real job and think of the next generations with honesty.
Posted by Michael Moore on July 2, 2013 at 6:57 AM · Report this
80
Just remember what is powering the computer you are reading this article on... yep you guessed it - coal.
Posted by Alex Kane on June 11, 2013 at 10:15 PM · Report this
79
At 8:30pm I saw a quantity of 95 BNSF open train cars filled with coal going north past Edmonds Ferry. If the number of trains contains open cars of coal increases it will surely effect the people living in this town. Their peace in the community, safety of people driving, biking or walking. I was watching the beautiful sunset here, the birds, wildlife and noticed there was a train passing through almost every 10 minutes. Each one blowing it's horn to warn of their approach and passing through town. This is a quandary of some people for or against allowing terminals to exist to facilitate the coal to get shipped overseas to China. But for Western Washington residents, they have to live with a lesser quality of life. We have to ask ourselves is it worth the cost? Who is profiting from allowing this to happen? If this is hurting the towns on the coasts of the Puget sound - can't we send it on ships down in Seattle rather than by rail on the tracks? Why should residents who have homes have their peace and clean air disturbed to accommodate people from other states and other countries who will be fit from this. Washington loses.
Posted by Teresa Rohlin on May 18, 2013 at 10:20 PM · Report this
SamClemens 78
Kudos to Cienna. Great article, and it certainly brought the astroturfers out in force. I've been reading Slog for a long time and I don't recognize most of the pro-coal usernames. Blech.
Posted by SamClemens on April 14, 2013 at 1:41 PM · Report this
77
@75 that dust is brake dust and very BAD for you to be living in. I once met a scientist who told me that brake dust is the worst thing for us and no one talks about it.
Posted by Kikimylo on March 5, 2013 at 9:41 PM · Report this
76
F Wyoming and the Dick Cheney train they rode in on. Start building wind turbines and solar plants you backward yokel idiots. Keep voting economy-destroying bankster republicans in, and then whine about some jobs you lose because you can't continue to pollute the world. You people are not only insane and selfish, you're essentially a seditionist threat.
Posted by Esol Esek on February 27, 2013 at 4:31 AM · Report this
Texas10R 75
@ 68 who writes:

"Increased rail traffic seems to be a poor argument to me. That is what the tracks are there for.

I live next to the I-5 and am always cleaning a lot of black soot out of the apartment."

Monty Python auditions are long past, but this would have been great Graham Chapman material.
Posted by Texas10R on January 21, 2013 at 12:40 PM · Report this
74
Over the past 15 years, WSDOT has spent many, many millions of tax dollars to improve and upgrade the BNSF mainline between Vancouver and Blaine in order to improve passenger rail service (travel time and number of train) for the Cascade Ltd. They have paid the BNSF to add sidings, crossovers and even paid for a new rail yard expansion in Everett. How will the added coal train traffic impact passenger rail traffic? Will the millions the state spent to speed up Amtrak service be lost to congested mainline traffic and increased mainline maintenance? I'm not being pro Amtrak here. Just pointing out that John Q. Public spent a fortune to run faster passenger trains on BNSF tracks and I wonder if more coal trains will make our investment worthless to us (but not to the BNSF).
Posted by The Engineer on January 20, 2013 at 10:04 PM · Report this
73
@72: THANK YOU! Can you please spread the word??
Posted by auntie grizelda on January 19, 2013 at 10:51 PM · Report this
72
I live in Dallas, but, seriously considering a move to Washington. I find this very upsetting. This is just the sort of thing I am trying to escape from in Texas. Please don't let this happen. I can't imagine ruining the cleanest air I have ever breathed in my adult life. Not to mention the pristine views. And to have to look at these trains rolling past when walking on the waterfront is appalling. Please "make it stop."
Posted by lovingwashington on January 18, 2013 at 8:36 AM · Report this
Texas10R 71
I sent this comment to:

http://www.eisgatewaypacificwa.gov/get-i…

[You can send your own as well. Why not do it today or tonight; on your own, with a friend, whatever. Just get to it. Yes, Seattle –This is an official call to action.]

I hope to spend my final days in this splendid complexity of human and animal life that is Seattle. It is utterly confounding that a bulk coal conveyance facility site would be under consideration in such fragile ecological environments as is represented from the Oregon coast to Cherry Point, Washington. Contingency and mitigation plans are all well and good, but the historical hazard event record does not bode well for coal production, transportation, storage, nor combustion as fuel.

The various applicants for coal-loading and transportation facilities have abjectly failed to allay the well-founded concerns of current (and future generations) of people living in the debris field (fallout!) zones of the available rail rights-of-way, and fail to garner confidence that sufficient mitigation measures would (or could) be designed and implemented. Of course, when I say "sufficient", I refer to sufficient with respect to the people in the wake of the coal trains –not the coal operators and principals who would substantially profit from the misery of the coal's effects per se.

The "benefits" alluded to by the coal operators, i.e., tax base increases, jobs, etc., are a red herring, given that the vast degradation of natural resources along all rail rights-of-way could not possibly be compensated by the most optimistic estimates of employment as projected by any of the plans under consideration.
It is patently foolish to suggest that renewable resources such as the fishing industry (necessary for much of human life) should be subjugated in favor of the mass extraction and transportation of toxic, non-renewable fossil fuel.

By any objective analysis, the risks-to-benefits are non-commensurate and asymmetric to the point of idiocy, except to those who would personally stand to gain, or those who refuse to observe the dangers, be their motive greed for money or any other.
More...
Posted by Texas10R on January 17, 2013 at 7:37 AM · Report this
70
I want to give Gregrose karma points, you win.

Alternatives for china include mining and burning far worse locally mined(in china) coal. worse working conditions as well. Powder River Basin has high safety standards. I've seen such a drop in new employees at these mines, along with more regulations, that it is obvious the industry is shrinking. Hopefully with these discussions, coal industry can invest in making the current coalbeds last twice as long as they proudly proclaim. That means alternative energy needs to be rooted in the same land that this coal is coming from, and coal can gradually find its way off the top of the pile.
Posted by whytheharumph? on January 16, 2013 at 10:41 PM · Report this
69
Westshore Vancouver terminal is maxed and already tied in to a long-term contract. The coal ain't going anywhere if we stop the terminals. This is bigger than jobs and trains...anyone see the air quality for Beijing over the weekend? You think those folks want us to subsidize more coal-fired power in Asia with our cheap, dirty coal? China already has schooled the U.S. in solar power production, but economies of scale mean they are burning lots of coal because it is cheap and available(thanks to us!). Do something, anything - even if you start by just pulling your heads out.
Posted by hamster on January 16, 2013 at 8:07 PM · Report this
68
Reading to be informed.
I would ask what are the economics of sending coal to China? What are the alternatives for China? In terms of social justice I would think it better for China to buy from the US its coal. Better standards. And we should go there have pay to help them build higher quality power plants. They won't do it on their own.

Increased rail traffic seems to be a poor argument to me. That is what the tracks are there for.

I live next to the I-5 and am always cleaning a lot of black soot out of the apartment. I am guessing that driving all these automobiles in a crowded urban area produces a lot more pollution in one day than the trains would produce in one year.

So all I really got out of the article was that people are upset and a bit hysterical about coal trains.
Posted by jd2 on January 16, 2013 at 6:08 PM · Report this
67
Ugghh. I hate it even more when a comment - especially a lengthy one - posts twice.
No way to delete one, eh?
Posted by gregrose on January 16, 2013 at 12:52 PM · Report this
66
Ugghh. I HATE it when the repub right does this, so it's quite embarrassing and upsetting when I see anyone on the left do this as well...
You can't just pick out bits of data and opinion from your sources without giving the context, or telling the whole story in the sentences that surround your cherry-picked quote.
First off, we all agree that coal burning for power is neanderthalic at best. Asia, however, will get their coal, regardless of what we do in our state. It just wouldn't ship out of Washington - we just pass the issue on to someone else's backyard.
Secondly, getting Asia to accept, buy and use lower-sulfur coal(aka "clean coal", as the coal lobby has deviously named it) is a first step of many to make long-term changes in their energy policies. No it's not ideal, but there's also no magic wand or Sustainable Energy Fairy that will bring about this change overnight.

The crux of my issue with this borderline hack job of an article, is the data from the "coal industry group" Utility FPE Group Inc. If you spend 60 seconds on their website, you will see that they are a BUSINESS that sells abatement materials and products to the companies dealing with coal delivery and storage. Risk Engineering, as UFPEG proudly claims as their business, depends on making the case that a RISK EXISTS. Much of the data that they give to prove risk is misleading and in some cases just plain false.
1) Only very rarely does coal spontaneously combust in hopper cars - regardless whether it's smoke or fire. Coal itself is actually NOT easily ignited. If coal sits for a long time, there is some risk, but when a load of coal is put into a hopper, it's commonly out of that car in less than 7 days. The only cases I've heard of coal loads on fire on a railroad have been caused by external sources... i.e. forest fires or field burning depositing embers; or from a "hot box" - where brakes on a railroad car lock up and start smoldering or even catch fire.
It's like worrying about car fires in downtown Seattle. Yes, I'm sure it happens... but it's really not something worth worrying about.

2) Coal dust in a standard hopper dissipates within the first 50 miles of transit. Coal hoppers are not "constantly spewing dust", as stated. It's not even really an issue anymore, as most of the bigger railroads are now spraying their coal loads with a surfactant that cuts down on coal dust emissions by 80-90%. The issue with coal dust destabilizing the railroad's roadbed is true - so the railroads have a vested interest to make sure this is addressed. But the only place where coal dust interaction with a roadbed has caused derailments is in Wyoming, in the Powder River Basin itself.
Other points that are made by Ms Madrid:
- Washington's freight rail system will not be "clogged". They have adequate capacity for these proposed trains, plus some.
- Impact for most communities in Eastern Washington will be minimal. For instance, all existing and proposed coal trains move through Spokane, where the impact to traffic is exactly zero. There are no grade crossings within Spokane city limits that this train will impact, and only 4 total that it will impact within the Spokane metro area.
- Impact to Seattle traffic will only apply to trains that are not routed through Stevens Pass. I don't know the proposed distribution of these trains, but they have 3 potential routes to the Puget Sound from Spokane.
- Claims about fishing being harmed - at least for Cherry Point - are new to me, and from what I can find, unfounded. The Wa Dept of Fish & Wildlife does not list the Whatcom County coast as a recognized "fishing ground", and there are no public objections to Cherry Point from fishermen that I can find. As for the other locations, I did not research those, and wouldn't doubt there would be impact.
- And yes, this will create a bunch of local jobs... not just for the coal terminals, but for the railroads, their subcontractors and infrastructure companies they do business with.

I guess my main point in all this is that to make MEANINGFUL CHANGE, adopting a NIMBY attitude does not help in this case. The coal will just go elsewhere to export - probably California. The countries of Eastern Asia will not suddenly say "Hey, maybe we shouldn't import coal after all" - they will just decide not to get it from the US, and instead get it from countries with a perhaps dodgier set of regulations on coal export.
I'd encourage our state to increase taxes on coal exports - if that is possible - as an initial step. And secondly, our Federal government needs to step in and impose a tariff on exports to countries without environmental controls and protections around the continued use of coal-fired energy production.

I acknowledge that as a progressive, and also a railroad proponent and railfan, I walk this weird tightrope of dichotomy. I've tried to give facts in my post, and not opinion. Facts are the progressive's best friend - facts need to be of utmost importance in our arguments, and I'd very much like to be corrected if any of my points are incorrect.
More...
Posted by gregrose on January 16, 2013 at 12:40 PM · Report this
65
Ugghh. I HATE it when the repub right does this, so it's quite embarrassing and upsetting when I see anyone on the left do this as well...
You can't just pick out bits of data and opinion from your sources without giving the context, or telling the whole story in the sentences that surround your cherry-picked quote.
First off, we all agree that coal burning for power is neanderthalic at best. Asia, however, will get their coal, regardless of what we do in our state. It just wouldn't ship out of Washington - we just pass the issue on to someone else's backyard.
Secondly, getting Asia to accept, buy and use lower-sulfur coal(aka "clean coal", as the coal lobby has deviously named it) is a first step of many to make long-term changes in their energy policies. No it's not ideal, but there's also no magic wand or Sustainable Energy Fairy that will bring about this change overnight.

The crux of my issue with this borderline hack job of an article, is the data from the "coal industry group" Utility FPE Group Inc. If you spend 60 seconds on their website, you will see that they are a BUSINESS that sells abatement materials and products to the companies dealing with coal delivery and storage. Risk Engineering, as UFPEG proudly claims as their business, depends on making the case that a RISK EXISTS. Much of the data that they give to prove risk is misleading and in some cases just plain false.
1) Only very rarely does coal spontaneously combust in hopper cars - regardless whether it's smoke or fire. Coal itself is actually NOT easily ignited. If coal sits for a long time, there is some risk, but when a load of coal is put into a hopper, it's commonly out of that car in less than 7 days. The only cases I've heard of coal loads on fire on a railroad have been caused by external sources... i.e. forest fires or field burning depositing embers; or from a "hot box" - where brakes on a railroad car lock up and start smoldering or even catch fire.
It's like worrying about car fires in downtown Seattle. Yes, I'm sure it happens... but it's really not something worth worrying about.

2) Coal dust in a standard hopper dissipates within the first 50 miles of transit. Coal hoppers are not "constantly spewing dust", as stated. It's not even really an issue anymore, as most of the bigger railroads are now spraying their coal loads with a surfactant that cuts down on coal dust emissions by 80-90%. The issue with coal dust destabilizing the railroad's roadbed is true - so the railroads have a vested interest to make sure this is addressed. But the only place where coal dust interaction with a roadbed has caused derailments is in Wyoming, in the Powder River Basin itself.
Other points that are made by Ms Madrid:
- Washington's freight rail system will not be "clogged". They have adequate capacity for these proposed trains, plus some.
- Impact for most communities in Eastern Washington will be minimal. For instance, all existing and proposed coal trains move through Spokane, where the impact to traffic is exactly zero. There are no grade crossings within Spokane city limits that this train will impact, and only 4 total that it will impact within the Spokane metro area.
- Impact to Seattle traffic will only apply to trains that are not routed through Stevens Pass. I don't know the proposed distribution of these trains, but they have 3 potential routes to the Puget Sound from Spokane.
- Claims about fishing being harmed - at least for Cherry Point - are new to me, and from what I can find, unfounded. The Wa Dept of Fish & Wildlife does not list the Whatcom County coast as a recognized "fishing ground", and there are no public objections to Cherry Point from fishermen that I can find. As for the other locations, I did not research those, and wouldn't doubt there would be impact.
- And yes, this will create a bunch of local jobs... not just for the coal terminals, but for the railroads, their subcontractors and infrastructure companies they do business with.

I guess my main point in all this is that to make MEANINGFUL CHANGE, adopting a NIMBY attitude does not help in this case. The coal will just go elsewhere to export - probably California. The countries of Eastern Asia will not suddenly say "Hey, maybe we shouldn't import coal after all" - they will just decide not to get it from the US, and instead get it from countries with a perhaps dodgier set of regulations on coal export.
I'd encourage our state to increase taxes on coal exports - if that is possible - as an initial step. And secondly, our Federal government needs to step in and impose a tariff on exports to countries without environmental controls and protections around the continued use of coal-fired energy production.

I acknowledge that as a progressive, and also a railroad proponent and railfan, I walk this weird tightrope of dichotomy. I've tried to give facts in my post, and not opinion. Facts are the progressive's best friend - facts need to be of utmost importance in our arguments, and I'd very much like to be corrected if any of my "facts" are incorrect.
More...
Posted by gregrose on January 16, 2013 at 12:36 PM · Report this
64
@63: Obviously your head is full of coal, weed, or rocks.
Posted by auntie grizelda on January 16, 2013 at 12:24 PM · Report this
63
Why are we sending our coal to China? Might not we need it some day? Maybe we will need it in 50, 100, or 200 years. But what the hell let's enrich a few fat cats now and the future be damned.
Posted by Seatsam on January 15, 2013 at 11:49 PM · Report this
62
a few of us smoked weed with davy jones in 1992 near washington square park. it was a hoot, that guy was one happy go lucky fellow. he was just bopping down the street like on the tv show.
Posted by tim koch on January 15, 2013 at 10:27 PM · Report this
61
@60: Glad you like The Monkees, too!
Posted by auntie grizelda on January 15, 2013 at 9:05 PM · Report this
60
Oh, yeah, she's raised you right, your Auntie Grizelda,
You only know the things she wants you to know.

I know she's having a fit,
She doesn't like me a bit,
No bird of grace ever lit on Auntie Grizelda.

Posted by whytheharumph? on January 15, 2013 at 4:57 PM · Report this
59
@58: Please go back to your cave and stay there.
Posted by auntie grizelda on January 15, 2013 at 2:11 PM · Report this
58
coal keeps me warm, at half the price of conventional heating. I love it!
Posted by dads on January 15, 2013 at 1:54 PM · Report this
57
I wonder if the Chinese are into burning filthy, corrupt fat and gristle?
I wouldn't mind exporting Rush Limbaugh and the Koch brothers
one way to Asia, but that would REALLY cause an unbearable global stink.
Posted by auntie grizelda on January 15, 2013 at 1:53 PM · Report this
56
people need to step up and stop them in Montana before they get here, i am serious. young single people should do this instead of listening to music, smoking killer weed, and fucking, and other stuff. better yet, bands should do benefits and stuff for the groups fighting the coal trains on the ground and through the Montana legislature. get some Subpop benefits going in Montana Tim, that would f'ng rock.

Posted by tim koch on January 15, 2013 at 11:22 AM · Report this
55
@54: Although I'm not about to pack up and move to the Powder River Basin any time soon, I agree with your basic point. If they haven't already, more people in Montana and Wyoming need to protest this insane proposal. Hopefully the majority over there isn't blind-sided by the corporate lie of "Good Jobs Now".

I don't care if China and Southeast Asia are so dependent on coal "they'll go elsewhere" to get it, or, that if coal isn't exported from Cherry Point in Whatcom County, Canada will get the revenue, not us! Oh, darn! This isn't being "NIMBY"---it's preserving what's left of our planet by using good, common sense!

Just say "NO!" to coal.
Posted by auntie grizelda on January 14, 2013 at 10:35 PM · Report this
54
move over to montana and stop the trains over there, before they get here half empty from wind and rain dissipation or whatever.

http://coalexportaction.org/

Posted by tim koch on January 14, 2013 at 5:11 PM · Report this
53
That giant squirrel scares me. More than the coal even.
Posted by Cletus on January 14, 2013 at 4:16 PM · Report this
52
Don't forget about Corporate Welfare and a pro-filthy-fuel economy promulgated by the legislateWHORES! ;D ----- http://www.globalgreens.org
Posted by 5th Columnist on January 14, 2013 at 3:40 PM · Report this
51
Thank you for writing this article.
Posted by bertooooo on January 14, 2013 at 9:34 AM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 50
GHEEEEZUZ Ms. Mepriser666 shut the fuck up with the facts. Facts never help calm the emotionally wound up. Now let's go get that drink and make us some babies.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on January 13, 2013 at 3:36 PM · Report this
49
As usual, Miss Madrid has missed the pertinent point:

If interstate commerce cannot be impeded and the coal facilities are not opened in WA, where will they open? Ans: British Columbia, which has way less environmental regulation than the USA, for both it's land and Puget Sound. This little piece of information is well known among planners, but utterly neglected in print thus far.

Translation: The coal trains will travel through Seattle regardless of whether "we" (the people) want them too or not. And, the only way we, US citizens, can maximize the regulatory safety to both the region and the Sound is insure that terminals are built in the USA and fall under US regulations, which are far stricter than those in B.C.

Sure, coal is terrible. We can all agree on that; however, when Miss Madrid starts addressing the reality of the situation instead of a shameless emotional plea with no analysis of the "what if's" perhaps people might take heed. Miss Madrid: What is your plan to stop the coal from being transported through Seattle and shipped via B.C.?
Posted by Mepriser666 on January 13, 2013 at 11:37 AM · Report this
48
I've read it all, and not just here. I still can't find any convincing argument to support the building of the ports or having the trains run through the state.

In terms of impact on our local environment and our daily lives (and not giving a rat's patoot about about quality of life anywhere BUT here), the whole proposal is either, at worst, a strong negative or, at best, a neutral for the overwhelming majority of Washingtonians.
Posted by Purrl on January 13, 2013 at 1:01 AM · Report this
47
you stated regarding current traffic levels: "This translates to about six coal trains per day (three full, three empty)"

this is inaccurate. first let me say that i agree with the argument that we should not burn this coal, and i share the concerns about global warming voiced in this article. i also think that some of the research done in writing this article is good. but these numbers are inaccurate, and, to be honest, even though they weren;t central to the arguments in this article, their inaccuracy made me question (even as a 'sympathizer') the other figures and statistics that you cite.

it is more accurate to say that there were about 500 coal trains in 2012 sent to roberts bank, BC from the powder river basin, with the spring creek mine in wyoming the biggest contributor. this is the only source of coal coming through washington to be exported at roberts bank. thats about 4 loaded trains every 3 days, or a bit less than 3 per day if you count the empty trains (which dont come through seattle). so you are off by a factor of 2+.

maybe you mis-estimated the tons of coal that each coal train carries, or you just have bad numbers on the total annual tonnage itself.

as a journalist you know as well as i that any slight factual errors can bring other things you are saying into question, especially when it comes to skeptics and/or people who are on the fence.

PS there were about 175 coal trains sent to the Centralia steam plant in 2012, or about 1 every other day. but of course you were talking specifically about coal sent to Canada.
Posted by chuncha on January 12, 2013 at 9:43 PM · Report this
46
The argument made in this article is greatly weakened by the complete lack of addressing ANY arguments in favor of allowing the construction of new shipping terminals for coal to be built in the state of Washington. There are exceedingly few issues in this world which are completely one-sided, and this certainly is not one of them.

Factors that NEED to be considered when looking at the COMPLETE picture in this argument include: the fact that China and India are going to not just continue to use vast amounts of coal now, but will increase their consumption of the energy source for the next several decades, regardless of where the coal comes from; coal mined in the United States is extracted in a more environmental manor than in places like China, Mongolia, and other countries where environmental standards are much lower; the extraction and exporting of coal will have some kind of positive economic impact in various places in the United States.

Once the (potentially) positive aspects have been properly and fairly laid out, only then can people balance those against the (potential) costs and decide in favor or against an issue. Refusing to even attempt a balanced argument shows not just poor analytic and debate skills, but immaturity as well (look at most of the comments for this article to see even "better" examples of this kind of self-righteous pigheadedness).

I haven't taken a stand for or against the issue yet because it is very hard to find reliable and balanced information for either side. This article certainly did nothing to change that.
Posted by R to the Y on January 12, 2013 at 4:08 PM · Report this
45
@18 - The increase in atmospheric CO2 is not natural: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends…
(click on the "Historic" tab on that page)

The increase in atmospheric CO2 is known to come from the burning of fossil fuels: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/arc…
Posted by KnowClimateChange on January 12, 2013 at 9:53 AM · Report this
44
robertq22 - @18 - The increase in atmospheric CO2 is not natural: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends…
(click on the "Historic" tab on that page)

The increase in atmospheric CO2 is known to come from the burning of fossil fuels: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/arc…
Posted by KnowClimateChange on January 12, 2013 at 9:43 AM · Report this
43
@40: Don't look at ME, David! I didn't vote for Dubya, nor do I own an IPhone5.

The Koch brothers ad nauseum WANT us to kowtow to the Chinese, because destroying every remaining natural resource left in the United States would make THEM richer.

That DOESN'T mean we suddenly "have" to export coal.

@40 & @42: Sorry, you're not taking me down with you! Washington State is still my beloved home since birth, and I will protest until I'm in my grave.
Posted by auntie grizelda on January 11, 2013 at 9:35 PM · Report this
42
Dennis Meadows (Club of Rome) had it right:
"The problem that faces our societies is that we have developed industries and policies that were appropriate at a certain moment, but now start to reduce human welfare, like for example the oil and car industry. Their political and financial power is so great and they can prevent change. It is my expectation that they will succeed. This means that we are going to evolve through crisis, not through proactive change."

Acknowledge this and give up the un-winnable battles: the coal will get to China and it will be burned there, regardless of our local protests. Re-focus your energy to do something more useful, like preparing yourself (and your children!) for a comprehnsive reduction in living standards.

(P.S. - you won't need an iGadget or NBA tickets for that)
Posted by ctmcmull on January 11, 2013 at 1:24 PM · Report this
41
There are alternatives to coal. Many scientists have been mysteriously murdered and/or just died for getting very close to new discoveries. Another paranoid fantasy? Well, I must have many of them then. I should write a novel and stay off the internet.

http://www.stevequayle.com/index.php?s=1…
Posted by Pluto in Capricorn on January 11, 2013 at 12:17 PM · Report this
40
Well, on the one hand, I have to agree that the coal terminal proposals have lots of negative impacts and probably shouldn't be permitted.

On the other hand, I know China's demand for energy is insatiable, and they will get American coal, one way or another. If not via Cherry Point, then from somewhere else.

If we hadn't mortgaged our future to the Chinese, we might have some say in the matter. But considering they hold trillions of our American Dollars, they will buy what they want. Or they will invade us....eventually.

Hope you like that new Iphone 5! We just went a bit more in debt to the Hammer and Sickle as a result of your purchase.
Posted by David in Shoreline on January 11, 2013 at 11:28 AM · Report this
39
OK. But you also point out that city governments have no right to stop this sort of interstate commerce, no state (but really you need a federal) election will take place before the completion of this project, and you and your magazine seem to have a pretty severe distaste for any sort of direct action to stop this. So we're supposed to comment to an environmental review board? Seriously? Our only leverage is a petty NIMBYist argument that this coal will make us sick if it's shipped through our city? And even that seems unlikely to have the environmental board STOP the project, no matter how many of your little do-nothing democrats parade around and make a huff about it. At best the companies will offer some sort of compromise plan, with plenty of greenwashing to assuage Seattleites.

Yet those same Seattleites don't seem to care much about the interdependence of the PNW on the (coal-spewing) Chinese economy generally. Our port does the most trade with China out of any port in the US -- those goods are linked to more burning coal than will ever be shipped out of these terminals. But when we shut down that port, all The Stranger did was bitch and moan. So when WE ultimately go out on the streets, blockade the rails, and actually dent these company's profits, will you just call us violent, smelly protestors who don't really know what they're talking about?

Problems are not solved in environmental-review board rooms. That's just where they keep the green paint.
Posted by blackcollar on January 11, 2013 at 11:14 AM · Report this
38
Thanks Mister G...

Articles like this without proper compromise or will to listen to any other point of view are frustrating.
Posted by whytheharumph? on January 11, 2013 at 9:42 AM · Report this
37
This article may well be totally true and be super important. However, I couldn't get past the obnoxious "Everybody knows that coal trains are bad for our health, our economy, and our planet" subheading.

There is nothing in the world that "everybody knows" and and that kind of annoying presumptuousness drives me crazy.
Posted by silvertron on January 11, 2013 at 8:55 AM · Report this
36
@25: Thank you for your link! I emailed Gateway Pacific.

@26 & @33: Did you recently pick your nose, find a 5 lb. bugger, and it turned out to be your brain?
Posted by auntie grizelda on January 10, 2013 at 9:31 PM · Report this
35
@18, If you think that "thousands of jobs" will be created, you're dreaming! Already Gateway Pacific, who originally "offered" 1,500
permanent "jobs" at the start, is now saying that only 200 will be permanent. Meanwhile, many OTHER existing jobs (i.e., trucking) stand to be lost BECAUSE of projected increases in traffic congestion, and in the fishing industry once our waterways are permanently polluted.
You obviously don't live near train tracks like I do, either. I am not selfish, I am only making sense!

Coal is an outdated 19th century dinosaur that should be made extinct!
Posted by auntie grizelda on January 10, 2013 at 9:25 PM · Report this
34
#23 mudslide

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Freig…

what if this had been a coal train??
Posted by seattlemedium on January 10, 2013 at 6:58 PM · Report this
33
#31, rest easy. The "progressives" of Seattle will not stop the coal trains. If they're able to keep them out of the city (doubtful), they'll just go somewhere else. This is entirely about appearances for the local pseudo-environmentalists.
Posted by Mister G on January 10, 2013 at 6:34 PM · Report this
32
@freelunch

funny name, You assume they aren't mining this off their own land? The states dig, and mine, Washington does not. Is that not fair? Larger cities get to use the offspring that coal produces(your galoshes and raincoats). Communication is key here...maybe a 30/40/50 year plan?

Seattle likes to bitch about traffic. STOP DRIVING.
Posted by whytheharumph? on January 10, 2013 at 6:02 PM · Report this
31
1. Spell Gillette correctly Seatle. It hurts the ego a bit right?
2. This smells like Frasier Crane's toilet backed up because he ate at that new vegan place. SHIT STINKS. a.k.a you can't have your cake and eat it too. Stopping trains that connect to the most efficient places, strangles the hope for better country wide transportation.
3. Stopping coal trains hurts another part of this country, a cleaner part of this country. For example: http://www.homes.com/listing/174577061/4…

you stop coal trains, my hometown becomes a ghost town.

Posted by whytheharumph? on January 10, 2013 at 5:36 PM · Report this
30
#28, they're playing Chicago-style politics on this one. They're throwing claims against the wall in hopes that something will stick. Of course the coal trains don't lose 25% of their loads.
Posted by Mister G on January 10, 2013 at 5:06 PM · Report this
29
I suggest the old Scott Paper property in Everett for a coal port. it could be done with no disruption of traffic in any major city.
Posted by billwald on January 10, 2013 at 3:09 PM · Report this
28
The author doesn't know the RR continues north of Bellingham to Vancouver, BC? If WA doesn't want a coal port, BC does.

A coal train can lose 25% of the load? Anyone believe it?
Posted by billwald on January 10, 2013 at 3:04 PM · Report this
27
#15, if we're lucky, they'd blow up a car or two on the train and take out that ugly sculpture park. The tracks would be rebuilt and the trains would resume, but at least that eyesore would be gone.
Posted by Mister G on January 10, 2013 at 1:49 PM · Report this
26
So now the "progressives" turn into NIMBYs. And Ciena, were you raped by a coal train?
Posted by Mister G on January 10, 2013 at 1:04 PM · Report this
25
This is my #1 issue right now because of the disastrous long term environmental, public health and economic consequences of this project. Aside from leaving a public comment at http://www.eisgatewaypacificwa.gov/get-i… by January 21 (which is very important and there is no limit to the number of comments you can leave if you come up with additional concerns and/or ideas), does anyone have any ideas of organizations or campaigns that concerned citizens can volunteer for or get involved with to help protect our city and our state from these dangerous coal trains? Thanks.
Posted by historyteacher on January 10, 2013 at 1:02 PM · Report this
24
"Everybody knows that coal trains are bad for our health, our economy, and our planet." Lazy headline.
Posted by bearrain on January 10, 2013 at 11:09 AM · Report this
23
There is a faction that sees this proposal as a job creator for Washington. I think there's something fundamentally wrong with that point of view. This proposal does nothing for the large number of chronically unemployed in the Eastern two-thirds Washington, a constant drag on the state's economy.

But putting that aside, I strongly oppose the trains because of the damage they will do and the dangerous risks they will pose locally in Western Washington, all along the proposed rail route.

Given all the street level rail crossings north of Seattle, the daily passage of these trains will have a huge negative impact on North Sound commuters as traffic patterns become permanently disrupted (whether you're alone in a car or in a crowded public transit bus, you'll be stuck waiting for a mile long train to clear a crossing at a speed of 25-30 MPH). In some areas, this will back traffic up to I-5 and on I-5, as arterial streets and roads serving the Interstate are blocked by the trains.

Frustrated drivers will increasingly try to beat the train at crossings, leading to an increase in train vs. vehicle accidents. This type of accident is always a major derailment risk. The constant danger of mudslides along a stretch of the rail corridor in Snohomish County also poses a high risk for derailment in the Everett area.

You want to bring this closer to home? Just think about a coal train derailment occurring above Golden Gardens spilling tons of coal onto the beach and polluting Shilshole Bay. That should be enough to make your blood boil.

Posted by Purrl on January 10, 2013 at 9:18 AM · Report this
22
Yes, coal has many negative aspects, but is there a alternative energy source? Reducing coal use would most certainly drive the country into an inevitable depression. The far majority of electricity produced comes from coal and green technologies are currently in their infancy.
Posted by liberty4all on January 10, 2013 at 7:34 AM · Report this
21
Yes, coal has many negative aspects, but is there a alternative energy source? Reducing coal use would most certainly drive the country into an inevitable depression. The far majority of electricity produced comes from coal and green technologies are currently a pipe dream.
Posted by liberty4all on January 10, 2013 at 7:33 AM · Report this
Seattlebcc 20
This is easy, stop using rubber, anything with plastic and hair coloring just to name a few items that use coal and coal based products That will stop the coal trains!
Posted by Seattlebcc on January 10, 2013 at 7:23 AM · Report this
19
You statement that coal dust isn't toxic is ridiculous. Coal has high levels of a number of toxics. One of the biggest is mercury. And a visual check of a coal train every day for "specks" of coal dust isn't exactly a scientific method for proving your theory. Try checking with the people who live along the train's route and see if they have higher rates of respiratory problems.
Posted by seattledogspot.com on January 10, 2013 at 7:16 AM · Report this
18
So many lies in one column I don't know where to start. So lets start with the biggest lie in history. Human released CO2 is not causing global warming. It's the natural cycle that has been happening for millions of years. Nothing has changed to stop they cycle. The warming comes from the sun.
http://wakeup-world.com/2011/09/02/c-e-r…
Coal dust is not toxic and covering the tracks for thousand of miles. I commute to work on a train every day. Coal trains us the same track. I have never seen a speck of coal dust in the station or coming off the trains as they past. The only people that have every had a problem with coal dust are coal miners and modern mining procedures that use water to keep the dust down have greatly reduces that problem.

There also seem to be a lot of selfish attitudes that think there little inconvenience by a train is more important that the thousand of lives that will be helped by the jobs created. But that is a trait of the liberal mindset isn't it.

Let the trains roll.
Posted by robertg222 on January 10, 2013 at 2:50 AM · Report this
Free Lunch 17
@16 - The Powder River Basin is in both states, just mainly in Wyoming.

And yes, I'm sure a coastal coal terminal will help the economies of Montana and Wyoming, but it won't do jack-shit for us in Seattle except hurt our own economy.

Maybe these freeloading coal states should put some skin in the game and pay for all the infrastructure changes needed to deal with three hours of coal traffic running through Seattle every day, rather than expecting Seattle to do that.

And maybe these freeloading states should also pay for the extra maintenance on Washington rail lines due to these heavier, more frequent trains, and reimburse us for being the bottleneck in our own rail commerce

It's only good for the economy of Montana and Wyoming if someone else is responsible for the economic consequences along the route. If they had to pay the true cost of getting coal to the coast, they'd lose their shirts.
Posted by Free Lunch on January 9, 2013 at 10:19 PM · Report this
16
In the first place get your facts straight. Gilette ia almost due east of Sheridan and the Power River Basin is in Wyoming NOT Montana. And you have No idea what coal means to the economys of these two states.
Posted by 5353 on January 9, 2013 at 9:13 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 15
They'll start putting covers on the coal cars pretty quick after someone starts dropping incendiaries into them. That overpass in the Sculpture Garden seems an ideal spot for that.
Posted by Free Lunch on January 9, 2013 at 9:07 PM · Report this
14
@11 historyteacher: And THANK YOU for your helpfully informative link!
Posted by auntie grizelda on January 9, 2013 at 8:35 PM · Report this
13
@10: Then Tacoma needs to wake up.
Posted by auntie grizelda on January 9, 2013 at 8:33 PM · Report this
12
THANK YOU, Cienna Madrid, and The Stranger, for getting this out!!
Coal is backwards, proven to cause lung cancer (black lung), and
you are absolutely spot on, @4 nonotford!!

The idiotic coal train proposal would not only completely destroy what makes Washington State such a desirable place to live, but only "benefits" the Koch brothers and their greedy profit lusting ilk. As for "Good Jobs Now", don't anybody be fooled! Has anyone besides me noticed that the number of "promised" permanent jobs has dwindled down to 200? Like such "jobs" would really boost our economy, while emergency crews and others are left stuck at railroad crossings. how many corpses would the fire, police, and aid cars end up transporting instead to the morgue, provided they can get there?

The coal train idea is a catastrophe of biblical proportions (yes, think about all the increased burning of fossil fuels when we really SHOULD be focusing on saving our planet) straight out of a 1970s disaster movie. We cannot let this happen!
Posted by auntie grizelda on January 9, 2013 at 8:31 PM · Report this
11
Cienna and the Stranger, thank you so much for doing your part to make more people aware of this dangerous environmental and public health threat.

Please comment on this project at http://www.eisgatewaypacificwa.gov/get-i… by January 21. Your comment is possibly even more important than your vote in the 2012 election because the committee has to read each comment and respond to each of your concerns before determining whether to allow this project. If you raise a new issue, the committee is legally obligated to consider that issue. Even if you think you have the same ideas that everyone else does, your comment is very important because the more people who speak up against the coal trains the more power local government organizations and politicians will have to stand up against the big coal companies.

You do not have to be 18 years old to comment. If you are a teacher (or if you know a teacher), you can ask each student in your entire class to comment for a homework assignment. If you are a parent you can ask your child to comment. This is our chance and the clock is ticking. Speak now (by January 21) or forever hold your breath.
Posted by historyteacher on January 9, 2013 at 6:32 PM · Report this
10
A burning coal train would pass through Tacoma without a second glance.
Posted by drinkup on January 9, 2013 at 5:49 PM · Report this
9
until I saw the check of $7590, I have faith that my mother in law woz realy bringing in money parttime at there labtop.. there uncle started doing this 4 only 23 months and as of now paid the dept on there condo and purchased a brand new Fiat Panda. go to,FLY38.com
Posted by forty77 on January 9, 2013 at 4:15 PM · Report this
8
Meh...
Posted by ctmcmull on January 9, 2013 at 1:27 PM · Report this
JF 7
Wait. Why would the coal plant destroy fisherman's jobs? The guy just states it as fact and the article doesn't elaborate. The article also claimed this was bad for the overall local economy but didn't provide anything to back that up.
Posted by JF on January 9, 2013 at 12:13 PM · Report this
6
Proponents tout the tax revenue these coal export terminals would bring in, but these projects are likely to cost local taxpayers much more than any added revenue from the terminals from all the new overpasses,and underpasses local governments would have to build to mitigate having their towns and cities cut in half by the procession of coal trains blocking at grade crossings frequently. Federal courts have ruled that the railroads are only liable for 5% of the costs of needed infrastructural improvements made necessary by heavy train traffic. State and local governments would have to come up with 95% of the money for those needed improvements.

These coal export terminals are a lose/lose proposition for residents of the Northwest even if you ignore the disastrous effects on the global climate.

Posted by Lefty Coaster on January 9, 2013 at 11:31 AM · Report this
5
Easily combustible? 1.5 miles long? Open topped? Trundling through remote backwaters? Sounds like a security nightmare.
Posted by tiktok on January 9, 2013 at 10:51 AM · Report this
4
it's amazing that washington could sacrifice its 21st century sensibilities to facilitate 20th century interests, and the 20th century developing world infrastructure they perpetuate and feed from.
Posted by nonotford on January 9, 2013 at 10:33 AM · Report this
Zotz 3
@2: +infinity. Thank you Cienna and The Stranger!
Posted by Zotz on January 9, 2013 at 10:19 AM · Report this
Former Lurker 2
The Stranger continues to be the only investigative journalist and advocate in the Seattle area...

(should we keep a tally of how many news stories/investigations that started at The Stranger or Slog which was then "picked up" by Seattle Times, KOMO, etc.?)

Keep up the fight!
Posted by Former Lurker on January 9, 2013 at 10:10 AM · Report this
1
Liver cancer?
Posted by DisorganizedReligion on January 9, 2013 at 9:11 AM · Report this

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