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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
April 30, 2013 at 7:05 AM
Leave coal in the ground
While leaders make progress on reducing coal’s use in power plants across the nation, the more attention given to the absurd notion that climate effects somehow shouldn’t apply to exports, the better [“Across the Northwest, coal exports stir a fight,” page one, April 28].
With leaders of the fight against Keystone, proponents of new energy solutions and others urging President Obama to provide leadership on climate issues, I think the Northwest is already doing a lot to provide global leadership in curbing emissions. But the region would really be dealt a blow if mired in the juxtaposition of becoming the largest coal-export hub in the country.
Whether we’re talking shaky finances and likely broken promises of coal companies, regional effects on fishing, negative traffic effects to local businesses and emergency services, or global effects from adding to the coal burned in Asia, I think it’s clear that this coal should just stay in the ground.
Craig Toohey, Seattle
March 28, 2013 at 4:36 PM
Coal terminals will counteract environmental progress
On behalf of FRIENDS of the San Juans, I would like to thank Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber for urging a thorough examination of the greenhouse-gas emissions and other air-quality effects of coal leasing and export in their March 25 letter to the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality [“2 governors wade into coal-export controversy,” NWTuesday, March 26].
Climate change is the most far-reaching impact of coal export for our global community. In San Juan County alone it could mean greater sea-level rise, more extreme weather events and increased ocean acidification that will impact our shellfisheries.
The Gateway Pacific Terminal north of Bellingham would ship 48 million metric tons (MMT) of coal every year. Burning this coal would create 96 MMT of carbon dioxide every year. Washington state’s 2010 carbon-dioxide emissions due to fossil-fuel combustion totaled 76.64 MMT every year (according to the Environmental Protection Agency). Just one of the proposed coal terminals would double our state’s greenhouse-gas emissions — counteracting all of Washington’s leadership in setting progressive policies intended to address our effect on climate change.
I am encouraged to see Govs. Inslee and Kitzhaber working together to take a stand on climate change that is associated with coal export. This is an important step toward making sure all environmental impacts are evaluated when permits are being considered for the coal-export terminals in Washington and Oregon.
–Katie Fleming, community engagement director, FRIENDS of the San Juans, Friday Harbor
Coal project proponents should welcome close scrutiny
This week Gov. Jay Inslee asked the federal government to undertake a “thorough examination” of Washington’s proposed coal-export facilities, as reported in The Seattle Times. I have noticed that each time an elected official, citizen group, tribal council, physicians group or other calls for close study of the proposed coal export terminals, the companies and individuals positioned to benefit financially from the projects issue dire warning: “It will cost us!” “This is a bad precedent for business!”
I think most Washingtonians see through this and are left wondering what coal-port cheerleaders have to hide. If the Gateway Pacific Terminal and other coal-export projects are such a good idea for our communities, then project proponents should welcome — rather than attempt to thwart — close scrutiny by the public and decision-makers.
–Shannon Wright, executive director, Communitywise, Bellingham
March 11, 2013 at 6:30 AM
Incentives needed for sustainability
I think it is great that Gov. Jay Inslee is taking responsible action to fulfill Washington state’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions that was put into law in 2008 [“Gov. Inslee: Wash. must be climate-change leader,” seattletimes.com, March 5].
In Senate Bill 5802 and House Bill 1915, the governor is looking to identify the best systemwide changes we can implement in Washington to meet fossil-fuel-reduction targets that are sustainable from a climate change perspective.
Though Washington state has taken good individual actions to reduce carbon, for example phasing out the Centralia Coal plant and maintaining a strong alternative-energy portfolio, we need systemwide incentives that will guarantee that we are sourcing and using energy sustainably. The governor is taking a first step for systemwide reform by asking for a study to see what actually works at the regional and national level from many examples in place around the world. In this way, Washington state can adopt the policies that will best fit with our current resources, infrastructure and financial abilities.
–Arvia Morris, Seattle
Pursue clean energy
Gov. Jay Inslee is absolutely correct to say that Washington’s future economic growth lies in clean energy and innovation [“Governor, senators disagree on terms of climate-change bill,” NW Wednesday, March 5]. But Washingtonians need more than just talk about reducing carbon pollution — we need tools to unlock the potential of clean energy.
Luckily for us, there are two bills (House Bill 1106 in the house and Senate Bill 5707 in the senate) that make solar energy easier and cheaper for small businesses, community organizations and regular Washingtonians. This legislation allows regular homeowners to lease their rooftops for solar panels, meaning that they benefit from lower energy bills and carbon-free power without the upfront costs usually required to install solar panels.
I strongly encourage Sen. Ed Murray and Reps. Jamie Pedersen and Frank Chopp to support this legislation so Washingtonians can start benefiting from solar power today!
–Ben Serrurier, Seattle
Change should not be delayed
Kudos to Gov. Jay Inslee for recognizing that the time for strong action on climate change is now. Scientific and public opinion are in agreement that climate change is here, that it’s human-caused and that the situation is urgent.
In Washington, climate change is already bringing increased wildfires, the acidification of Puget Sound with dire consequences for marine life and the shellfish industry, and a less-predictable snowpack “reservoir” for irrigation and drinking water.
The longer we delay our response, the more extreme the effects of climate disruption for us and our children. Now is the time to determine the best ways to reduce our carbon emissions (as the Legislature committed our state to in 2008) and create clean-energy jobs here.
Addressing climate change is an opportunity to grow our economy and protect our future. The future of the planet is not a partisan issue. There is a lot to learn and a lot to do. Let’s work together with Gov. Inslee as we grapple with this critical and growing challenge.
–Polly Freeman, Seattle
Why not hire ‘green’-minded individuals internally?
While I am excited to hear about newly elected Gov. Jay Inslee’s plans to be a pioneer on climate change for the state of Washington, I would like to know why Inslee “advocated for a measure to hire an outside group to advise him on how to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.”
Do we not have enough able-bodied, intelligent and green-focused individuals in house to advise Inslee on how to march toward emission reduction and climate change reversal?
The report’s “October” due date sounds hardly pioneering. We can start small, right here, right now, by paying mind to the little things; we can no longer wait for big things to happen.
–Pamela Ronson, Seattle
March 3, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Corporations benefit from developing countries
The ironies concerning the coal-terminal proposal range from coal replacing ancestral Lummi burial grounds to it blowing back across the Pacific as instant karma [“ ‘Green’ strategists now back coal trains,” page one, Feb. 26].
This issue is parallel with the tobacco industry. American smoking continues to decline while corporate profits continue rising. This is because we are pushers who pawn off an addiction that we are learning to resist upon less-educated countries that are in earlier stages of development. The net effect is corporate profit and sick people.
Coal is going through the same cycle. Our country has found cheaper and more environmentally friendly fuel sources. Corporate America’s solution is once again to pawn it off to other countries for profit. Except this time, there would be a trail of tears from mining to transportation to blowback. If left in the earth, new clean technology may someday make it valuable for us.
American Electric Power recently agreed to close three coal plants in the Midwest. The Clean Air Task Force determined that doing so will prevent 203 deaths, 310 heart attacks, 3,160 asthma attacks and 188 emergency-room visits annually.
What is a fair price for profit? What will it take for us to wake up?
–Harvey Schwartz, Bellingham
March 1, 2013 at 7:01 AM
Coal trains will be inconvenience
“ ‘Green’ strategists now back coal trains” [page one, Feb. 26] reveals that a great deal of money is being spent by proponents of coal-unit trains and terminals in Western Washington. This is discouraging and irritating.
Since the proposal was introduced, we have heard a lot about environmental effects, health and safety effects and temporary employment effects. We likely will be hearing a lot more.
The terrible and essentially perpetual adverse effects of the proposal on the public convenience and the quality of life of millions of people who live here are seldom mentioned. Anyone who has waited at a railroad crossing on the Seattle waterfront for the seemingly interminable passing of a unit train moving at a snail’s pace will know what I mean. It actually is being proposed that we all be subjected to this dozens of times a day. This is lunacy.
The coal-unit trains and terminals proposal is a selfish and inherently bad idea. It should be disposed of with all deliberate speed.
–Lee Voorhees, Mercer Island
Coal trains will disrupt environment, job market
Anyone who argues that the jobs argument trumps global warming had better learn how to subtract. The coal-train proposal would disrupt commerce daily throughout the Pacific Northwest, driving away marine-dependent employment from the harbors. Sodo would be gridlocked as commuters wait on 20 miles of coal trains. The Ballard railroad trestle would daily be down for hours, bottling up ships in Lake Union and Salmon Bay.
Exporting 150 million tons of coal puts the long-term future of my industry, North Pacific fishing, at risk. The Port of Seattle estimates 15,000 fishing-related jobs in the Seattle area alone. Increasing acidification in the oceans caused by the burning of carbon-based fuel is already causing damage to the state’s shellfish industry and will, if unchecked, threaten the marine web on which my salmon fishery depends.
Why trade sustainable livelihoods for a few jobs based on a one-time extraction of a nonrenewable resource?
–Pete Knutson, co-owner Loki Fish Company, Seattle
February 28, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Greed overtakes ‘green’
We were very disappointed with Tuesday morning’s Seattle Times page-one article concerning coal trains [“ ‘Green’ strategists now back coal trains,” Feb. 26]. The word “green” now stands for money, not ecology. Greed has taken over!
–Diane Talley and Dennis Young, Seattle
‘Green’ consultants won’t slow environmental damage
Are we really shipping U.S. coal through Washington ports to have it returned in the form of global warming?
It is already next to impossible to see 10 feet in Beijing most days, so let’s help the Chinese and stop sending them this very destructive fuel source.
Hiring “green” lobbyists to influence Washington politicians doesn’t change the shortsighted and environmentally damaging impact of mining, shipping and burning coal.
–Ted Hoppin, Bainbridge Island
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