Topic: Coal trains
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August 24, 2013 at 8:02 AM
Impacts are important
I am shocked at Lauri Hennessey’s misleading, unsupported comments about Mayor Mike McGinn regarding the coal-export study. [“Mayor had coal-study findings since July,” page one, Aug. 20.]
I hope readers will look at the actual study and note for themselves the many negative impacts for Seattle that coal-train plans would bring.
People need to know more about such impacts as traffic congestion, property-value losses, emergency-response inputs and grade-crossing construction and about the huge costs.
I would urge readers to click on the link to the Sightline Institute, especially to learn about what is missing from the coal study, such as cost estimates for coal dust and diesel-exhaust pollution.
We in Seattle are fortunate that Mayor McGinn is looking out for our interests on the coal-train issue. The commissioned studies are an important piece of the work he is doing on our behalf.
Connie Voget, Seattle
August 23, 2013 at 11:13 AM
The law of unintended consequences
I recently stopped at a railroad crossing and was amazed at the length of time it took to wait for the coal train to pass. [“Mayor had coal-study findings since July,” page one, Aug. 20.]
It was at least five minutes, which made us do the math. If 18 additional coal trains come chugging up the coast to Bellingham and then return, that is 36 additional trips that will disrupt traffic, congest the piers, blight the beaches and local communities with more coal dust, increase asthma and respiratory illnesses, and depreciate real estate.
But that is just the human cost. What about the health of Puget Sound and the salmon and shellfish industries? Coal is quickly becoming a dirty word, as much as the industry would like to call it “clean.”
Why can’t we see the big picture? The global climate is changing rapidly, and if our thriving communities are in danger, we all lose. Sure, there would be some jobs with the coal terminal, but there never seem to be as many as predicted, and the consequences will also harm those who are painting a rosy picture.
Ask the mine workers, ranchers and farmers who traveled all the way from Wyoming and Montana and testified at the public hearings about the law of unintended consequences.
Elizabeth Cunningham, Seattle
July 11, 2013 at 7:28 PM
China will get its coal somewhere
The letters that I read in The Times bearing on the subject of coal trains advance the proposition that not exporting coal to China will have a positive effect on stemming global warming. [“Northwest Voices: Coal terminals and air pollution,” Opinion, July 10.]
This is naive. If the United States does not ship coal to China, China will, of course, buy it from someone else. This would have zero effect on global warming, and have a negative effect on our fragile economy.
Victor Matous, Shoreline
Carbon taxes should go both ways
As The Economist so succinctly stated, “the world will one day adopt a carbon tax — but only after exhausting all the alternatives.”
It occurs to me that such a tax needs to cut two ways, taxing carbon combustion while issuing credits for “biocarbon solutions.” [“Guest column: Biocarbon solutions for the climate,” Opinion, July 10.]
If taxes would be market-based incentives to find ways to reduce carbon combustion, then tax credits could certainly be market-based incentives to develop new ways to capture and use atmospheric carbon.
Thomas Dyer, Seattle
July 9, 2013 at 7:30 PM
Pollution should be main focus of debate
With all the talk of long waits at crossings and jobs that will be produced with coal terminals, I find it amazing that no one addresses the elephant in the room. [“Coal, jobs and climate change the debate,” Business, July 7.]
By shipping tons of coal to China so it can be burned in power plants, which have little or no pollution-prevention devices, has it occurred to anyone that, like the aquatic debris from Japan, all that pollution will drift to the West Coast?
Let us not get all tangled up with trains, jobs and such when the real question should be, how many tons of coal pollution is Seattle and the rest of the West Coast ready to breathe?
Wally Adams, Seattle
July 3, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Congestion is a make-or-break issue
So Ken Miller, of Millennium Bulk Terminals in Longview, doesn’t believe the rail congestion is a make-or-break issue. [“Coal trains a concern for congested cities,” page one, June 30.]
Many would disagree with that. If Millennium Bulk builds out to full capacity, there will be a minimum of 16 unit trains per day, clogging 4 intersections in the Longview industrial area.
Traffic is already congested, due to the existing businesses on that corridor. One important rail crossing would block access to the Lewis and Clark bridge, connecting Oregon and Washington.
It is estimated that at rush hour, the last car in line to cross the bridge would need 45 minutes, accounting for traffic signals and backup. St. John’s Hospital serves the entire region; one wonders how many babies will be born on top of the bridge because the mom couldn’t get to the hospital! The same holds true for emergency services reaching the other side of the tracks.
Remedies for this congestion will cost the taxpayers millions of dollars, with the benefits going to a company that wants to exacerbate climate change.
Stop the coal trains now!
Gayle Kiser, president of Landowners and Citizens for a Safe Community, Longview
June 7, 2013 at 11:16 AM
Coal is only the beginning
It is becoming more obvious to me by the day that coal is just the gateway commodity to justify an export terminal at Cherry Point [“Sierra Club sues BNSF over coal dust from trains,” seattletimes.com, June 5].
Once they start with coal, it will only be a matter of time before liquefied natural gas (LNG) and refined-petroleum products move from our shores to the export market.
The export of petroleum products will cause scarcity, and thus price increases for us domestically, and the export of LNG will endanger us beyond imagination.
Back in the day, long before Internet, one of my chemistry professors did a scale-model demonstration of what an LNG-tanker explosion would do to a port facility. I’m not sure what the official explosive safety quantity distance radius is for an LNG explosion, but in the professor’s scale model, most of Manhattan was taken out.
Thomas Munyon, Marysville
May 30, 2013 at 12:58 PM
More extensive study needed
It is extremely disappointing that the Army Corps of Engineers is intending to do only a limited study of the impacts of coal terminals in Oregon and Washington [“Group asks for big picture in Northwest coal-ports decision,” News, May 25].
Thousands of people gave their input on this very subject last November regarding the coal-shipping terminal proposed at Cherry Point, and 90 percent or more of them asked for a wide-ranging study. Were these hearings for nothing? Did the Army Corps already have its mind made up?
Only the coal companies and those intimately associated with them believe that there will be no impact from coal transportation other than from the shipping terminals.
Although the area surrounding the shipping terminals will suffer greatly from coal pollution, each community along the path of coal transportation will also suffer substantially as well. What a tragically shortsighted effort by the Army Corps.
Mike Shaw, Edmonds
May 24, 2013 at 6:02 AM
Hold public forums
The question of bringing oil and coal rail cars to the Port of Grays Harbor appears to be a trade-off between public-health concerns and money for the harbor [“Groups ask for big picture look at NW coal ports,” seattletimes.com, May 22]. Therefore, it seems obvious that the county and the port should hold public forums just like we did at the Grays Harbor Public Utility District and Olympia for the Satsop Nuclear Power Plant in 1989.
Currently, there are questions we should ask about oil and coal: What effect will these materials have on our respiratory health? What is the destination? Who is the end user? What will the end users do with the product when they get it? What is the scientific and global implication of the end user increasing particulate matter in the atmosphere?
There are lots of complicated questions to be asked. It appears that it’s not just a matter of local elected officials getting approvals from the county to move forward with more rail cars coming to the port. If the broader implication is about the health of our children and ourselves, let’s have a public discussion and then let the chips fall where they may.
Jerry Taylor, Elma
Economic stability is also important
Reading Roger McClellan’s guest column and the misinformation repeated by the press — about the proposed Whatcom County Gateway Pacific Terminal multi-commodity, dry bulk cargo-handling facility — shows how project opponents use false information to convince government authorities to prevent project approval [“Let science, not conjecture, guide discussion of coal-train dangers,” Opinion, May 10].
While our rigorous attention to environmental sustainability is essential, so is equally rigorous attention to our economic sustainability.
We can be certain that the project’s design and operation will comply with environmental regulations as well as provide urgently needed jobs. Remember, quality of life begins with a job and private-sector job holders pay the entire cost of government.
We need to get the Gateway Pacific Terminal up and running as soon as possible.
John Fluke, Cle Elum
May 20, 2013 at 7:58 AM
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
May 12, 2013 at 7:03 AM
Establish monitoring station
I live in Interbay, where multiple railroad track bisect the area between Magnolia and Queen Anne. Downtown Ballard is directly north. These centers have become very densely populated in the past few years under several city administrations [“Coal trains fire up UW chemist,” NWWednesday, May 8].
BNSF Railway has a repair and refueling station in the heart of this area. During any given 24-hour period, huge amounts of visible smoke are emitted from the diesel engines many times. Depending on the speed and direction of the wind, the smoke spreads and settles repeatedly every day in this heavily populated region.
I would encourage professor Dan Jaffe to place a monitoring station nearby. If coal trains are approved, this daily activity will only increase, affecting huge numbers of Seattle residents directly.
Shauna Bellamy, Seattle
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