Keep the coal in the ground
Roger McClellan expresses discomfort with the way activists are using anecdotal evidence of health impacts of coal dust to justify the coal-train protests. [“Let science, not conjecture, guide discussion of coal-train dangers,” Opinion, May 10.]
As a climate scientist, I feel a similar sense of discomfort when I hear political activists invoking anecdotal evidence linking recent storms or unusually hot or cold weather to human-induced climate change; but that does not mean that I am not concerned about the long term impacts of global warming.
And although I share McClellan’s misgivings about some of the rhetoric that is being used to justify them, I strongly support the coal-train protests. Jobs created by mining more coal in North America to burn in China to produce more consumer goods to ship back to the North America will come at a tremendous cost to future generations, who will have to cope with the depletion of our remaining natural resources, the environmental damage caused by expanded coal mining, and the global warming and ocean acidification that will inevitably result from the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
For those of us who care about the kind of world our grandchildren and great grandchildren are going to inherit, there is plenty of sound scientific evidence to justify keeping the coal in the ground.
John M. Wallace, professor emeritus, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle
Focus on the common good
I appreciated Roger McClellan’s guest commentary on the disturbingly hyperbolic coal-port debate. He’s right to say that no one benefits from policy debates driven by “pseudo-science and alarmist claims.”
Think how often we see exploded truck tires on the highway. That’s a tangible and real public-health threat that we deal with every day. We deal with this through safety standards that we expect truckers to meet.
Coal has moved through the region for over a century. When was the last time you heard of someone injured by a coal train in Washington, or complaining of air quality? You haven’t, because our rail system is safe and effective at transporting all kinds of goods and commodities. Finding a piece of coal or a chunk or metal ore is no reason to shut down commerce across the state.
New export facilities deserve to be treated like any other investment opportunity and put through a process that involves a thorough understanding of each individual facility that includes public feedback. That process is playing out now, and shouldn’t be slowed or altered because of a few outlandish publicity stunts.
Let’s focus on the common good.
Suzie Burke, Fremont Dock Co., Seattle