Follow us:

Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

May 20, 2013 at 7:58 AM

Proposals to ship coal by train through Northwest ports

Keep the coal in the ground

A coal train moves through Seattle en route to Vancouver, B.C. Efforts to bring coal terminals to Washington and Oregon have enlisted some lobbyists and public-relations firms long connected with environmental causes. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

A coal train moves through Seattle en route to Vancouver, B.C. Efforts to bring coal terminals to Washington and Oregon have enlisted some lobbyists and public-relations firms long connected with environmental causes. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

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

Comments | More in Environment | Topics: coal, coal industry, Coal trains

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►