Coal train opposition meeting draws 60 to Edmonds Thursday

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New Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling expresses his support for the coal train opposition effort.

A meeting to organize opposition to the construction of a coal export terminal in Bellingham — and the resulting coal train traffic that such a terminal would generate through Edmonds –drew a crowd of more than 60 people to the Edmonds Library Plaza Room Thursday night.

Elected officials attending included City Council President Strom Peterson, Councilmembers-elect Joan Bloom and Frank Yamamoto and newly elected Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling, who welcomed the crowd and stated his support for the group’s efforts to fight against the Cherry Point Coal Terminal.

Volunteer citizen group Sustainable Edmonds organized the meeting as a follow-up to the Oct. 26 “Cold Hard Truth” forum. Peterson outlined the Edmonds City Council’s recently-adopted resolution that pointed out that increased coal train traffic through Edmonds will have both health and environmental effects on local residents, and as a result the opinions of Edmonds residents deserve to be considered during the decision-making progress.

Linda Lyshall of Sustainable Edmonds divided the attendees into volunteer groups, where they brainstormed action plans for media, community outreach, group speakers, business outreach and health professionals outreach. Each group worked on their own set of goals and actions for the upcoming year, as well as taking some time to get to know their concerned neighbors.

The teams of volunteers will be working more in the coming months to organize the Edmonds community and businesses to oppose the Cherry Point Coal Export terminal, even though the construction company, SSA Marine, has yet to officially file a request to build it.

Citizens who want to learn more about the proposed project can visit CoalTrainFacts.org.

— Report submitted by Todd Cloutier of Sustainable Edmonds

9 COMMENTS

  1. Here is some “straight talk” for you all…

    You all can have meetings, committees, etc. However, the STB (Surface Transportation Board) is the ultimate deciding point on who and where trains can run too. It is laughable that you all believe you can tell a private company that they can and cannot run trains on their privately owned railroad and how many trains they can or cannot run, especially a railroad that has been around to 130+ years. If you moved next to the railroad (within a mile of said railroad tracks) it is only your own self to blame for the “noise” of the trains, since you are the ones complaining about the noise.

    And if the Cherry Point facility doesn’t get built, that export business will go to Canada instead and those trains will run, regardless if the facility is built or not. Living in Auburn, I listen to all of the traffic in the rail yard, hear when the trains goes over the switches, hear them throttle up leaving the yard, it doesn’t bother me, because I knew what I was getting myself into by moving near a rail yard. It is a shame you all don’t have the forefront to research this before you moved.

    All this is doing is only hurting the growth of the United States and getting jobs back into our society. No matter the effects of coal to Asia may or may not be, myself, along with thousands of other people want to get back to WORK and all you all are doing is hampering that progress.

  2. Brian;
    I’d like to correct just a few of the points you highlighted above.

    – Nobody is going to stop trains from running directly. The objective of our meetings, and the organization, is to ensure that Edmonds, and other communities along the rail corridor, have the impacts on their communities included in the analysis of impacts of construction of the Cherry Point terminal. The coal companies don’t want the impacts on our communities considered, as it will raise their costs, which is EXACTLY what we’d like to see happen.

    – If the Cherry Point terminal isn’t built, the coal from Powder River Basin will NOT go to Canada, as those ports are at capacity, and further, the Candian gov’t has already stated that new terminals will not ship US coal. More likely, other cities in the PNW will be asked to host a coal terminal.

    – The “jobs” claim is misleading, as there are only about 100 full time jobs over the long term connected to this project. But at what cost to the businesses in the Bellingham area’s waterfront, or the communities along the way? To be clear, there are construction jobs in building the terminal, but these are only short term.

    I encourage you to read up on the facts at http://www.coaltrainfacts.org
    —-

    I, too, am keenly interested in job creation, but not at the cost of ocean acidification, air pollution, strip-mining, and a significant increase in coal train traffic past our waterfront.

    There are better things to do with our time and money. For a simple example, let’s look at our little town of Edmonds. We spend $40 million per year on electricity and gas. With no expenses at all, just adjusting thermostats and taking care of leaks, we can easily drop that by 10%, which comes out to $4 million per year. If we employ our contractors in retrofitting buildings, by insulating, sealing HVAC systems, improved furnaces and such, we can not only employ our contractors and boost US industries (insluation and furnaces are almost 100% US made), the savings will pay for these improvements, make our buildings more comfortable, and reduce the need for us to argue about new generating capacity.

    Take this up a level, and consider Everett, Seattle, and Spokane, and you can see we’re talking about HUGE potential to use reductions in our wasted energy (and hence money) to boost our jobs, and improve the robustness of our infrastructure.

  3. Todd – If you honestly believe that no coal trains will go from the Powder River Basin to a Canadian Port, there are about 5 trains in Auburn Yard that are scheduled to go that direction. 3 to Robert’s Bank, 2 to Prince Rupert, all from the Powder River Basin.

    The Canadian government has said multiple times that American coal will not go to Canadian points…8 years later, BNSF and Union Pacific both make regularly scheduled deliveries to both of ports. PRB coal is some of the “cleanest” in the United States, which is why the demand for its resource is so highly sought after. The Centralia coal plant for example had access to coal on it’s property, however, elected to use the coal from the Powder River Basin.

    Out of capacity? That is what they will claim, however, there are 3 new coal mines slated to open between 2013 and 2017, with Canadian Pacific and Canadian National railroads that will be moving that coal to the ports. BNSF will be increasing it’s traffic in the Spring from 3 trains a day to 8 trains a day. (loads, not including the returning empties) and in getting ready for this increase, BNSF has 15 positions already listed on their website for Conductor Trainee for this region. Feel free to check this out for yourself if you do not believe this.

    I understand the point and frustration that you have but you also live in an heavily industrialized region, where import and exports are of high demand. Protesting, debating is only going to continue to hurt the economic growth and well being of our nation. Until the Government gets more behind green technology, the use of “dirty” fuels will continue.

    In terms of jobs, the 100 jobs only translates to the plant itself. It doesn’t include the jobs from the coal mines that hire more people to do mining, working on equipment, the railroads that hire more people to run their trains and maintain the tracks, not just in Washington State but through the trains entire journey here. That 100 jobs has now become 300-500 jobs. What about the jobs of marine operators, such as pilots, tug boat captains, dredging operations.

    Bellingham will not be hurt at all by these extra trains and if anything, will benefit from the extra traffic as Bellingham becomes a crew base for the BNSF Railway. The employees that will need to eat and perhaps even move to and live in Bellingham to call home.

    Perhaps most people haven’t noticed that BNSF has been upgrading the Cherry Point line for some time now to ease the slow speed that the trains would have taken, will now be doing 30mph instead of 10mph. Those crews that worked in Bellingham, stayed in Bellingham and supported the businesses there.

    Hopefully you (and others) are starting to see the bigger picture rather than just air pollution and environmental effects. It is going to happen, regardless of what is done here in Bellingham, Edmonds, Longview, or else where. If it happens in Coos Bay, Oregon, that is 100 jobs that will be added to Oregon’s populous and not Washington’s. Can we really afford to be through jobs away right now?

  4. Brian,
    I appreciate your civil tone and sticking to positions and ideas. I believe we differ on the principles. I also believe that increased employment is good. However, I do not believe in employment at any cost. There must be a balance, and if we do not rise up to stand for that balance, nobody else will. We can not accept that which is unacceptable (supporting massive increases in coal export and burning) while also claiming to have our eye on the future.
    I will readily concede that there are short term employment opportunities at hand, but I would hope that you would also concede that the economics of resistance are also viable. That is, by forcing the coal export proposals to consider the real financial, environmental, and traffic impacts, we will marginally raise the cost of export, and hopefully mitigate some of the impacts in the process.
    On a global scale, increasing the cost of coal export reduces the increases in coal plant production in Asia, where the majority of construction is currently done. Given that a coal plant runs for upwards of fifty years, any reduction in plant construction now will have long term positive effects.
    This argument is a bit long, and doesn’t fit well with the 24 hr news cycle of sound bites, but it is founded on straightforward economic principles, and will work. It’s not as exciting as talking about standing on the rails to stop the trains, but is far more likely to have a real impact.
    I hope you find room for yourself under this big tent, as I hope you can agree that increasing coal exports does not do the world a service, given the long view.

  5. If the winds are able to bring us pollution caused by coal being burned in China, then that, at least, will be nothing new. Between 1980 and my retirement in 1997 I visited China 32 times; probably one-half of those visits were in the winter time.The air in the eastern cities, including the capital city of Beijing, was so thick with coal smoke that the sky was very rarely visible. When I took my shirts off at night the collars were black! And I needed a new handkerchief every day.Probably I was saved from the resulting germs by having to drink the very potent Moutai liquor at social occasions.

    So, yes, let’s do whatever we can to at least not have an increase in pollution from China.

  6. I should have mentioned that China has for many years taken at least one significant action to minimize the use of coal. West of the Yangtze River, a very significant region of the country, the heating of buildings used for industrial purposes is not permitted. It’s milder in that region, but still it feels mighty cold when you’re sitting for the entire day in an unheated meeting room.

  7. The next meeting is scheduled for this Wednesday, January 11th, again in the Edmonds Library Plaza Room, 6:30-8:30 pm.

    Come on out to learn what the proposals are, what the status of the applications are, and what we, in Edmonds, can do about it.

    This is a citizen driven effort, all by local volunteers. We need you to add your voice!

  8. I heard Friday on KUOW an interview the a man in Bellingham that is leading an effort to pass a local law to ban all coal trains from going through. He stated that localities did have that power under certain provisions & many other cities in the country have been able to do the same for trains and other potential hazards.

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