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Where We Live: Inslee, Local Politicians Need to Stop the Coal Trains

Time for us to concentrate on improving our state.

"The election is over; now the real work begins.”

We elected Jay Inslee governor and many expect him to be the greenest governor in US history. He certainly has the legislative record to back it up, and he wrote the book on transitioning to a green economy- literally- it’s called “Apollo’s Fire- Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy” Still, he hasn’t clearly stated his antipathy to a new coal port terminal in Washington, and it’s past time he did.

I wrote about it back in April. All those coal trains I noted? They’re going to Tsawassen, BC. A west coast terminal for Wyoming Powder River coal has been proposed for Longview, Cherry Point, and other ports in Washington and Oregon, and we’re being barraged by all those Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports warm, fuzzy, “patriotic” ads touting the idea, but we’ll get paltry good from it.

According to the Seattle Times around 1900 (+/- 200) short-term jobs will come from building a Cherry Point terminus, and 300 - 400 will be permanent at the mostly-automated facility, and more railroad crew will be bringing the 9 to 18 additional trains a week through here, slowing Seattle’s traffic, and Edmonds’ and Mukilteo’s and everyone else’s. And all the coal coming out of Wyoming and Montana supports only about 7,000 jobs of all sorts there, according to Eric de Place of Sightline Institute, so it’s not a believable argument to say we should invest in coal exports to create jobs here.

We’ll also have to live with all the pollution at the terminal, and all the toxic, pathogenic dust emitted from the cars along the whole route, and all the pollution we export to China along with the black rocks. As soon as they burn it all that CO2, carbon monoxide, mercury, arsenic, lead and other heavy metals, and massive amounts of sulfur dioxide, which directly produces sulfuric acid, along with literal tons of particulates and aerosols, will be poisoning their land, water, and air. Ugly in every way. Not something you would do to your children, right? So why would we do it to someone else’s?! You don’t even have to be that altruistic. Whatever they burn in China WE will receive back from them in the air and water. Remember the strangely brilliant sunsets a few years ago? Dust from the Gobi Desert dust storms- reaching us. Here.

But wait- there’s more! The Washington State Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification- co-chaired by Jay Manning, who spoke in Shoreline a few weeks ago- just released its report, and it’s grim reading. A lot is going on, and the lowering pH is killing our seafood and the food of most of the rest of the food chain! Let’s skip another 30 – 50 years into our future, though, and all the additional acidification our coal exports put into the sea will upwell off our coast and will be killing off the last of our fish and shellfish. Hyperbole? If the pteropods (little zooplankton critters you’ve probably never heard of) die off- and they’re already among the worst affected by acidification- they take most of the salmon and a hundred other critters which eat them, sea lions, orcas, bears and eagles (which eat salmon)… and all the rest of the dominos fall.

The result is we’ll have a tiny proportion of a small number of jobs (likely none at all here in Shoreline/LFP and Edmonds) while dealing with the toxic and disruptive evils of it in full measure. Does that sound like anything anyone should actually back?! Only if well-paid by Big Coal, I suspect, or so deluded they can hardly tie their shoes. Let’s balance that against 42,000 Washingtonians employed just in the seafood industries and do the math, shall we?

This is a devil’s bargain, and the blowback is lethal. What do we do? The Panel recommends six broad-strokes jobs to do:

1. Reduce emissions of carbon dioxide;

2. Reduce local land-based contributions to ocean acidification;

3. Increase our ability to adapt to and remediate the impacts of ocean acidification;

4. Invest in Washington’s ability to monitor and investigate the causes and effects of ocean acidification;

5. Inform, educate, and engage stakeholders, the public, and decision makers in responding to ocean acidification; and

6. Maintain a sustainable and coordinated focus on ocean acidification at all levels of government.

The Executive Summary goes on: “Washington State will need to respond vigorously to ocean acidification if we are going to avoid significant and possibly irreversible losses to our marine environment and all it supports, including shellfish farming and wild harvest of shellfish and other commercially and culturally important marine species. Public investment by the state is needed, as are public-private partnerships that promote innovative solutions to acidification.”

Contact all your elected officials. They need to hear long and loud how much we need this dealt with. Here is a list of US and statewide officials, and here is a Find Your Legislator page for Washington State legislators. Here are King County’s officials and lastly, here are Shoreline’s
and Lake Forest Park’s.  

Martin December 02, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Interesting how those who oppose the coal terminal have no problem minimizing the jobs of those who would be very positively impacted. And the positive impacts are so much great than the supposed negatives. If they are so opposed to the diesel fumes from trains and such why are they not trying to close down all of the port on the west coast that hand IMPORTS? Those imports are driving the need for coal in China. Those imports are causing so many ships to come into our ports. THOSE IMPORTS have driven our jobs OUT of the country. Where was the opposition for those facilities? for the trains carrying those import? for the diesel truck carrying them? I am not opposed to the import just as I support all of our exports. Exports are needed to sustain our economy, to sustain jobs and hopefully to help our balance of trade and curb our horrible deficit spending. Let’s be reasonable and balanced and not oppose something just because it does not benefit you directly.
Mick Klass December 03, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Do you know that the people of Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota get no benefit from the the 10-15 trains a day that pass through their states carrying containers between the Pacific Northwest ports and the Midwest and East? All as they get is blocked grade crossings, diesel smoke and their peace and quiet disrupted. Occasionally they get a derailments with contrainers that can contain hazardous materials. The container ports in the PNW need to be shut down, or limited to only goods that are produced or consumed in ther region.
Wendy DiPeso December 03, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Good article Larry,..just to summarize on the jobs, with the terminal we will get 1900 temporary jobs (300 to 400 permanent) at Cherry Point and about 7,000 jobs spread between Montana and Wyoming and put at risk the jobs of 42,000 Washington residents. You are right,..unless the goal is to reduce jobs in Washington to coal terminal is a bad idea.
Nibor Ceenelo December 03, 2012 at 08:30 PM
We do not need more toxins in Edmonds or surrounding areas. Give them an inch, they'll certainly take a mile!
Martin December 03, 2012 at 10:43 PM
If everyone is limited to what is only produced locally, you can turn off the light and never use a computer, or lightweight, bicycles, or most anythign else. Most ecerythign needs components and materials from elsewhere. Unles you are willing to live in the dark you shluld not prevent others from either a living or the ability to buy things to make life liveable.
Peter Duncan EHS '70 December 04, 2012 at 11:53 AM
I travel through BC Ferries' Tsawwassen terminal 4 or 5 times a year, and the coal terminal just north of there doesn't seem to cause much of a problem. However, that terminal has 4 or 5 trains per day delivering coal, while all the estimates I've read for a possible terminus at Cherry Point calls for more than FIFTEEN times that many trains!! My family was in the coal industry from Pennsylvania to Colorado for many years, until thankfully they relocated to the Seattle area 93 years ago, but I've gone through Utah, Colorado, & Wyoming many times, and every rail line you see there where coal trains run is coated with coal dust. Those are drier climates, and with our inclement weather, that coal dust isn't going to stay on the rails and right-of-way, but will wash down onto the beaches and estuarine areas. Silting up of tidelands impacts shellfish too much already thanks to clearcutting and overdevelopement, but if you use the beaches on the east shore of the Sound, or hunt and fish around there, your recreation areas are going to be seriously impacted by these trains. Oh, and by the way, with the mudslide closing the right-of-way this past week, how will it be if the periodic land slippages close this line when the coal industry is trying to send 75-85 trains per day through here? Big Coal has done enough damage across the US, and is even now trying to steal the water rights of the Hopi & Navajo in the Southwest. We don't need it here.
Larry Lewis December 08, 2012 at 05:21 AM
Here's something to add to the thread: http://blogs.seattletimes.com/today/2012/12/accident-at-b-c-terminal-sends-unknown-quantity-of-coal-into-the-water/#.UMK99NThlhU.facebook
Peter Duncan EHS '70 December 08, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Got to love the inference that there wasn't a pilot or the captain at the helm......God, Dixy Lee Ray would have pushed for coal trains like crazy.

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