This guest post is by 17 leaders from across the state who oppose the expansion of coal exports.
The fight against dramatically expanding coal exports scored a victory this month when three proposed coal port sites were abandoned by Houston-based Kinder Morgan Co. However, two proposed coal export sites remain in Washington State: Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point and Millennium Bulk Terminals in Longview. That is why the newly launched Leadership Alliance Against Coal will continue to work to oppose coal trains and exports to protect our communities.
Washington residents live in a state that is beautiful, prosperous, and bountiful with natural resources. As Washington leaders of cities and tribal nations, we have an obligation and fiduciary responsibility to protect our environment, natural resources, economies, and the health of our residents. Together, we are building a future that ensures generations from now still will call Washington State the best place to make a home and raise their children.
That is why we oppose the proposals to build coal export terminals on the Puget Sound, and to send as many as 18 coal trains per day, each over a mile long, through our state to and from these terminals. These coal trains threaten the health of our communities, the strength of our economies, and the environmental and cultural heritage we share.
In our cities, these coal trains will create unacceptably long delays for residents, visitors, freight, first responders, and others who are trying to cross the busy rail corridor. The City of Seattle conducted a study that found coal trains could add an additional two hours of gate downtime at major street crossings of the railway by 2025. Similar delays are likely in cities large and small along the proposed route of these trains.
On Washington State tribal lands, coal trains will cause those same disruptions, but will also do additional damage to treaty rights and cultural heritage. The proposed Gateway Terminal located at Cherry Point is proposed to be built on sacred ground of the Lummi Nation. It is no different than if someone proposed to build a coal terminal at Arlington National Cemetery. For generations, the Native Americans have witnessed and experienced devastation of cultural heritage, health and ancestral lands. We don’t need to see any more.
To add insult to injury, all of us will face the environmental impact of this exported coal being returned to the Pacific Northwest in the form of more air pollution, increased carbon emissions, and rising seas. Residents of Washington State are already paying the price of industrial pollution. In the past four years taxpayers have invested over 70 million dollars to clean up Puget Sound. That work could be undermined by pollution from coal dust, an increase of vessel traffic in the Puget Sound, the Salish Sea and the Pacific Ocean, and the impact of open coal exposed on shorelines at the terminals. Washington State would have more difficulty fulfilling its responsibilities to the federal government and to our communities in restoring these damaged waters, habitat, and resources.
We are not seeking another route for these coal trains. No other community should have to deal with these impacts. Our cities and Washington Tribes are standing together in an alliance to stop these coal trains from dividing our communities and destroying the heritage of Washington State.
We call for agencies to work together to explore the impacts of coal dust to the health of people living near the rail tracks and the coal terminals. We call for a joint plan to urge state and federal agencies to deny these coal export proposals as their proposed benefits do not outweigh the likely costs to our economies, our health, and our natural environment.
We encourage others in Washington State and around the Pacific Northwest to stand with us. Cities and tribal nations in Oregon, along with Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, have also been voicing their concerns about this proposal. Members of the public turned out in great numbers last fall to voice their opposition to coal trains and coal exports at hearings across the state.
We will stand united against coal exports and protect our beautiful landscapes, our neighborhoods, our businesses, and our shared heritage.
Mayor Mike McGinn, Seattle
Mayor Steve Bonkowski, Bainbridge Island
Mayor Jon Nehring, Marysville
Mayor Stephen H. Buxbaum, Olympia
Mayor Keith McGlashan, Shoreline
Mayor Dave Earling, Edmonds
Chairman Melvin Sheldon, Jr., Tulalip Tribes
Chairman Rudy Peone, Spokane Tribe
Chairman Brian Cladoosby, Swinomish Tribe
State Representative Reuven Carlyle
Councilmember Larry Phillips, King County
Council President Ben Stuckart, Spokane
Councilmember Mike O’Brien, Seattle
Councilmember Kristen Hytopoulos, Bainbridge Island
Councilmember Chris Eggen, Shoreline
Councilmember Strom Peterson, Edmonds
Councilmember Nancy M. Dumas, Sumner
Mayor Mike McGinn, Seattle