A new poll shows that 50 percent of Washingtonians support the proposed coal export terminals that would transport coal from Wyoming, through Eastern Washington, along Puget Sound, up to Bellingham, and then off to China. The other 50 percent is made up of folks who don't support the terminal (32 percent) or are not ready to pick a side (19 percent).

Cienna recently wrote a feature on the proposed coal terminals and trains.

The Elway Poll collected data from respondents by region, level of awareness, importance of issues like environment and economy, and feelings regarding environmental review.

The results showed only 6 out of 10 respondents had ever even heard of the terminals (low, considering the size and scope of the endeavor). Surprisingly, some of the lowest level of awareness came from those Eastern Washington counties that the 1.5 mile-long coal trains would snake past nine times a day. Not surprisingly, the most intense support came from respondents who don't live along the proposed train route, of whom 33 percent are definite supporters. And oddly, King County was the most supportive area (59 percent) while the county's most populous city, Seattle, had the lowest support (29 percent):

Support and Opposition depends on where you live in relation to the project
  • Elway Poll
  • Support and opposition depends on where you live in relation to the project

Those who had the highest awareness of the proposals were strongest in their convictions of support or opposition. But of those surveyed who had limited awareness of the proposals, the proportion of overall support was higher. "These findings suggest that proponents have the advantage in the early framing of the discussion," the polling memo says. "Since the more casually held opinions favor the coal ports, opponents will have a heavier lift to persuade people with those opinions to change their minds, while the proponents' easier task will be to reinforce already favorable inclinations."

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Employment opportunities were seen as the most important consideration in the decision to build. Sixty-seven percent of respondents said that job-creation should be the most important consideration. Of course, it seems the question might have been a little skewed as it seems to have been worded, "Developing these coal export facilities would create about 2000 jobs during the two-year construction period and up to 200 permanent jobs at each port." This phrasing does not address the resultant loss of jobs in sectors such as fishing.

Trailing well behind the hopes of economic gains are the considerations about environmental losses, with 53 percent ranking the number of coal tankers travelling through our coastal waters as the most important consideration, and another 48 percent ranking the number of trains rattling through Spokane, the Tri-Cities, Vancouver, Seattle, and Bellingham as the most important.

Supportive and opposed respondents agreed that information collected in an environmental review would contribute to their feelings about the projects. But there is wide disagreement about how to draw up the boundaries of the environmental review. Most supporters of the terminals prefer site-specific reviews at Longview and Bellingham, but opponents argue that the environmental review be regional in order to include the effects of the transport trains and not just the port terminals. It seems that a regional review has wider support than a site-specific review overall.

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