Reminder: Nine coal trains daily through Edmonds? Learn possible dangers at ‘Coal Hard Truth’ forum Wednesday


The Port of Bellingham has proposed a plan to ship millions of tons of coal to Asia, and the idea has public health and environmental ramifications for Edmonds residents. That’s why Sustainable Edmonds and local representatives of the Sierra Club are hosting an educational event Wednesday evening, Oct. 26 at Edmonds Community College.

Both groups are opposing the proposed nine daily trips of coal trains traveling from Montana and Wyoming to the Columbia River and then through Seattle, Edmonds, Mukilteo, Everett and north to Bellingham, then returning empty.

During the Wednesday night “Coal Hard Truth” forum, you can hear current news and an update on the proposed Bellingham Port expansion to accommodate coal shipments, plus the possible ramifications for cities along the path of the one-and-a-half-mile coal trains: increased noise and traffic impacts; environmental issues with air, water and fisheries; health issues; and jobs and the economy. You can also why other cities have rejected offering their ports for coal shipments due to past shipping failures.

Speakers including Seth Ballhorn of the Sierra Club; Strom Peterson, Edmonds City Council president; Kabran Chapek, Edmonds naturopathic doctor and Todd Cloutier of Sustainable Edmonds. The meeting is located in Room 202 of Woodway Hall on the Edmonds Community College campus, 20000 68th Ave. W., Lynnwood. The event begins at 7 p.m.; refreshments will be served at 6:30 p.m.

For questions or to RSVP for the Coal Hard Truth Forum, contact: or call 206-378-0114, Ext. 302.

To learn more about the Bellingham-based Gateway Pacific Terminal project, visit the project website here. For another perspective, you can also read the Oct. 5 story from Crosscut here.



  1. How could this be bad? It boost our economy in the State. And the only environmental or health impact that i could see impacting us is if a train derailed.

  2. Paul is right. This summer we were in New Hampshire & rode a coal powered train up Mt. Washington. I looked along the tracks and saw inches deep, feet wide strips of black. I asked the brakeman if that was coal & he said it was. Both unburned dust that shot out the chimney and dust that flew off the coal tender.

    I do not see anything good about having that kind of pollution stretching from Seattle to Bellingham. In addition to the visible size dust, there is also the more powdery particles we won’t see but we will breath in (and not out, ask a coal miner).

  3. After looking at the list of speakers I hardly see how they can say “get the truth”. It will be biased as it can be.

  4. There’s far more than environmental and health impacts, though those are the most obvious when dealing with coal. Here’s a few, off-the-cuff:

    1. This coal is strip mined, which results in massive river pollution, air pollution, and the loss of the use of the land for any other purpose.

    2. This coal is headed to Asia, where the pollution standards are nearly non-existent, so these coal exports will significantly increase global pollution levels (take your pick of poisons, coal burning produces just about all of them)

    3. Increasing US coal exports will cause global coal prices to drop, which will cause… you guessed it, increased production of coal plants. Coal plants, once built, last for about 50 years, so we’re committing to 50 more years of burning this messy fuel. Have you heard of ocean acidification and its effect on fisheries, shellfish, coral, and the entire ocean ecosystem?

    4. Coal exporting creates very, very few jobs in the US. That’s a diversion. Exporting raw materials is, as every economist will tell you, the WORST way to use your resources for economic benefit. I say, keep it in the ground, here in the US, and if we find a cleaner way to use it in the future, it will still be there, and will be far more valuable. And employing construction workers to build something we don’t want or need isn’t wise economic development.

    5. There are also local impacts here in Edmonds: traffic, local air pollution, coal dust (approx 1% of the load simply blows away during transport), noise, and further disruption of our ability to access our waterfront, to name a few.

    In any case, show up on Wednesday to hear the facts, and to hear how you can make your concerns heard by decision-makers during the review process. Because if it’s approved, and the trains start rolling, there is no recourse.

  5. We were walking in the area of the waterfront today when a lengthy train comprised of open railway cars carrying coal went by. I wonder how many of these now go thru Edmonds. I also wonder why they are allowed to travel uncovered.

  6. On my regular walks along the Edmonds waterfront I’ve been paying more attention to the trains that “grace” Edmonds. Without getting into the argument about mining/shipping to China/building a new coal terminal here’s what I have noted.
    Coal trains usually have about 120 cars plus engines and take 3-3 ½ minutes to transit through town. Container trains vary but I’ve noted a number several at about 100 cars plus engines taking about 2 ½ minutes. I have no idea how many coal trains transit daily but I’ve never seen an empty one heading south. On a recent visit to an ethnic festival in Odessa (east of Ephrata on the BNSF mainline)I noted empty coal trains heading east on that route. The inference in most discussion is that Edmonds would get nine trains each way. I wonder. Also while walking the waterfront I have managed to be on the station platform on two occasions while a coal train transited. In neither occasion have I experienced coal dust or other debris. Likely that is a “red herring”. Perhaps local jurisdictions could work with the Feds to require covers on the coal cars.
    As to the mining/shipping argument I’ll leave to other local “experts”. I suspect the added train traffic will hardly be noticed. When the economy picks up we’ll likely see as many—or more—container trains.
    Let’s keep the two arguments separate and apply some research and common sense to the discussion.

  7. I was tempted to dismiss the local coal dust issue as others have. After doing a little research, I learned that most of the coal dust is blown off by the turbulent winds that result when a coal train passes another freight train in the opposite direction.

    Edmonds sees very little coal dust from the existing coal trains because we only have a single track. Trains cannot pass each other. But that’s about to change when BNSF adds a second track. The Bracket’s Landing parking lot closure starting tomorrow is due to preparation for the second track.

    Dog owners should be concerned because there’s going to be more coal dust in the off-leash park and along Sunset Avenue. Dogs sniffing at the ground will be inhaling it.

    Property owners on Sunset Avenue should also be concerned. High speed trains passing when there’s a westerly wind will deposit coal dust on their property.

  8. Bart, I suspect you’re right about the empty trains. The full trains are probably too heavy to make it over Stevens Pass. That’s why they go all the way south to the Columbia River. But the empty trains would save fuel by taking the shorter route over the pass.

  9. This past summer, I literally lived within 30 feet of a railroad track while staying at an RV Park. This was in Minnesota and numerous coal trains passed on a daily basis. I walked my dog daily on or just off the railroad track.

    NEVER! Not once did I ever see one tiny bit of coal dust building up along side the track. Furthermore; my RV stayed completely clean the entire four months it was parked at the RV Park. Not one bit of coal dust on the sides or top of the RV.

    This is just another case of the radicals wanting to stop coal mining in America. M questiony to all of you who believe electric cars is the answer: Do you realize coal is the source of electricity used when your battery needs to be re-charged?

    Those of you who don’t like coal going to China because they have relaxed standards need to start allowing more development and use of coal in our country. America is over-regulating coal, oil and natural gas production while the radicals see nothing wrong with purchasing oil from the middle East where regulations are non existent.

    It is simply the old “out of sight, our of mind” philosophy. Such phonies!

  10. Jobs is probably the biggest issue for doing this. I understand what unemployment is, and why labor is for it. In our current economy, people need money and here are potentially good paying construction jobs to build the port in Bellingham, but they are temporary jobs. The number of permanent port jobs, after construction is in the hundreds. Early on I first read there would be about 1,500-2,000 cosntruction jobs and maybe 150-200 permanent jobs. I just read new numbers: 3,500-4,000 temporary jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs (National Geographic Daily News). That’s sure a different picture, but I don’t know who is right.
    There’s no guarantee there won’t be a derailment. Accidents happen all the time. Guess what? A few months ago some coal cars derailed in an Auburn parking yard. They didn’t spill, just tipped precariously, so it wasn’t news. Coal spill in our own Edmonds Marsh? Not so good for the birds. Not so good anywhere.
    Ron asked, why are the trains “allowed” to travel without covers. Apparently, there is no law against it. BNSF was asked if they would cover the trains. It’s a business. If you were asked would you? Can you imagine the cost of how many thousands of covers? And then the time and labor cost to cover and uncover at the port and then re-cover to return to the mines? It’s time and cost prohibitive that isn’t going to happen – willingly.
    This is a critical issue in our history, but it is also an incredible Pandora’s box, onced opened, it changes everything.

  11. Liberals, Democrats and environmentalists are waging war on the working class. This is another example of it.

    They can always create a bogus issue to oppose whatever they do not like.

    Let’s see — will they be happy if coal trains go through the Stevens Pass Railroad tunnel north of Everett like they will anyway? Of course not!

    This is a fake, manufactured issued.

  12. I think this is a stupid idea to export that coal. Here are my reasons:
    1. Petroleum prices are soaring and we have the technology to turn coal into liquid fuel and polymers.
    2. China has no environmental standards and plenty of its own coal.
    3. The increased usage of freight on our tracks will cause further delays to Amtrack, Taggart, and Sound Transit trains for commutes and vacations.
    4. The coal dust from the freight and the black smoke clouds (if the trains run on coal) are very bad.

  13. Nine COAL trains a mile long each coming through our community EVERY day will leave a trail of destruction that we will not even be able to imagine…….Anybody that thinks coal is clean needs to get their heads out of the 1930s! Go to the museum and pick up a piece of coal and then you tell me if it looks like it could in ANY way be made “clean”

    Just a few of the MAJOR things that will be affected, our HEALTH (do we even want ANY cold dust coming off the trains in our lungs! EVERY TWO HOURS), our wildlife, which will die away with a slow death, our economy, which will no longer exist because people will NOT want to visit here (I certainly don’t see Virginia or any of the coal areas in our country being popular tourist/visitor destinations for people… fact, just the opposite….NOBODY goes there unless they have to!, and our values for housing, etc. will totally tank as usually only people that are desperate because of poverty live in these areas in our country.
    The people of Edmonds and surrounding communities need to stand up now to STOP THE COAL coming through our communites here.


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