STOPPING THE COAL TRAINS



Leadership Alliance Against Coal sign Last week I joined thirty five other elected and tribal officials from Washington, Oregon, and Montana to send letters to President Barack Obama, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Washington Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington Department of Ecology asking for a broad and inclusive review of the three coal export sites proposed for Washington and Oregon. I was a founding member of the Leadership Alliance Against Coal, and it is great to have support from officials from Helena to Bellingham in signing these letters. The next opportunity for the public to have input will be a Public Scoping Meeting to be held at the Tacoma Convention Center on Thursday, October 17, from 5 to 8 M, and I encourage all those who are concerned about this issue to attend. I am proud to be the elected official to testify on behalf of the City of Seattle.

The letters to the key decision makers focused on impacts to public health, the environment, the local economy, traffic, and the climate of coal trains and coal exports at the proposed sites.

“We believe it is necessary to consider the three terminals together, in a cumulative impact analysis, in order to understand the full breadth of the impacts,” we wrote to President Obama. “We urge you to direct the Army Corps of Engineers or another federal agency to conduct a broad analysis of the impacts of coal export, including the impacts of mining in Wyoming and Montana, transporting the coal via rail across state lines, shipping it through our waters and eventually burning it in Asia. We need to understand the full impact of these proposals on our local communities, on our environment and on our health; and the federal government needs to take the lead.”

The letters thank President Obama and Governor Inslee for their leadership on climate issues, and ask them to assist in conducting a broad, cumulative review of the proposed coal exports. The letter to President Obama asks him to direct the Army Corps of Engineers or another federal agency to conduct a review of the exports, including the impact of mining operations in Montana and Wyoming, shipping it by rail to a terminal in Washington, and the impact of burning the coal in Asia.

The letter to the Army Corps of Engineers urges them to reconsider an earlier decision to conduct a limited review of the coal export terminals. Instead, we argue in our letter that “the Corps has an obligation under the National Environmental Policy Act to consider environmental effects of these projects both inside and outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.” We cite greenhouse gases and other toxic pollutants, such as mercury, that will be emitted by burning the coal abroad and blown by winds over the Pacific Ocean to impact communities in the United States.

The letter to Governor Inslee and the Washington Department of Ecology expresses thanks for the decision announced last month that the Department of Ecology will include in its environmental review of the Gateway Pacific Terminal the statewide rail and health impacts as well as the global climate impacts from the coal export proposal, and asks for their support for an environmental review that includes all three proposed coal export sites.

The Leadership Alliance Against Coal is a coalition of over 75 elected and tribal leaders from Washington, Oregon, and Montana organized to raise awareness about and oppose the damaging economic, cultural, and health impacts of coal trains and exports.

I share the concerns of my fellow elected and tribal leaders about the global issues of climate change and the impacts on specific communities. In Seattle, we are also concerned about the direct consequences to the health of our communities from coal dust, and the negative impacts on the Port and our manufacturing economy if coal trains block traffic and use up valuable space on our rail lines.

Automobiles and trucks are the largest source of carbon emissions, and a key part of our Carbon Neutral strategy is to move more people and freight by rail. There a limited number of tracks that access Seattle and our Port, and if these are used for coal trains, it will seriously limit our ability to reduce our own carbon emissions.

There are no good arguments for coal trains, and I encourage attendance at the October 17 hearing.

Comments

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Comment from Mark Knoke
Time October 23, 2013 at 3:04 pm

“No good arguments”? Chinese-mined coal is typically a much lower quality than what we would be shipping out. Smog is horrendous over there. It’s not as if China will stop burning coal anytime soon, whether we ship our coal or not. Wouldn’t giving them cleaner-burning coal help the environment? Their air becomes our air, after all.

Comment from Susan Burnett
Time October 31, 2013 at 10:36 am

Thank you for your efforts to block coal trains. Particulates are high already. I have asthma and have had to go to the emergency room when Seattle has high particulate levels. I know that many are affected even if it is not so severe. We receive the affects of China’s industrialization and India is close behind. Temporary jobs are no substitute for the life shortening of many citizens.