Friday, November 16, 2012

"First of all, I like trains," Says Man Explaining Why Bellingham Needs a Coal Terminal.

Posted by on Fri, Nov 16, 2012 at 2:04 PM

In this week's paper, I write about the thousands of people showing up at statewide public meetings to comment on and protest building the nation's largest coal export terminal 15 miles outside of Bellingham, Washington.

In response, slog-tipper Steve sent me a five-minute video he made of the huge turnout in Bellingham:


Here's my favorite pro-coal terminal comment in the video: "Instead of calling it coal, what if we called it ballet shoes? How would people feel about exporting ballet shoes? It's a legal commodity [and] coal's a legal commodity."

Here's my favorite con: "Coal is part of our past that we left behind. Bellingham used to be a coal mining town."

The crowds at these public meetings have been so outrageously huge—and well informed—that a Seattle event originally scheduled for this week at North Seattle Community College was postponed until December 13 at 4:00 p.m. and moved to the Washington State Convention Center.

(If you can't make the meeting, you can also leave a comment on the proposal.)

If the deal moves forward, up to 18 coal trains would travel daily through Spokane, the Columbia River Gorge, and up the coast through Longview, Tacoma, Seattle, Edmonds, Everett, Mount Vernon, before arriving in Bellingham. State and federal agencies are seeking public comment on the proposed terminal through January 21, 2013.

 

Comments (18) RSS

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Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 1
Since SLOG is the official tally sheet and dirty laundry excavator, how about one of those fabulous exposes of Democrats and/or environmentalists who show their cards and vote in favor of coal.

What? Too many ruffled feathers in the WA Dem Party?

You don't say...
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com on November 16, 2012 at 2:14 PM · Report this
Karlheinz Arschbomber 2
Clean coal! Wazda problem, hippies?
Posted by Karlheinz Arschbomber http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arschbombe on November 16, 2012 at 2:19 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 3
Oh, please, there never has been clean coal. There's just dirtier coal, different grades of it, from coal used for smelting to coal used for trains to coal used for electricity generation.

(caveat - I have owned and probably still have shares of various coal firms, including direct IPO shares of Peabody, or Tek Cominco, as well as various fund holdings)
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on November 16, 2012 at 2:36 PM · Report this
4
SSA has a bad reputation for refusing to deal with unions, Burlington Northern upgraded some rail bed lately in Bellingham using men from their payroll from Houston, TX (so much for "local" jobs). Potential investors for a development on the Bellingham waterfront will be considering whether they want to invest where access to their shops and businesses is impacted. Canada has said they can not take anymore coal at their present terminal. Not having the new port in Bellingham would NOT mean the coal would just go to Canada. The main guide book for sailors and pleasure boats in the San Juan Islands says that it's not pleasant to anchor at Point Roberts (next to the existing Canadain coal terminal) because the water and the air are so foul with coal dust. And they're saying this would bring jobs?!? All of these are important factors to consider, but the most importanty factor is this: Do you have children? grandchildren? do you care about climate change? Burning coal is responsible for approximately 24% of our current CO2 polution. We need to leave it in the ground!
Posted by Virginia on November 16, 2012 at 2:37 PM · Report this
5
I have to admit I'm a little confused about why the coal dust flying off moving train cars is such a big issue. Can't we simply require coal cars to be covered?
Posted by beef rallard on November 16, 2012 at 2:39 PM · Report this
6
They say they can't cover the cars as it would exacerbate spontaneous combustion. Additionally, the railroad has taken a long discussion and video off of their website which demonstrated how the coal dust was undermining the tracks and causing expensive repairs along the road bed. Incidentally, the railroads are ALLOWED to pay UP TO 15 % of all necessary improvements. The rest of the cost of any under passes or over passes that would have to be upgraded or added because of this additional traffic, would have to be borne by the taxpayers. Additionally, coal trains are so heavy that they damage the rail beds and make high speed rail impossible. We would be hurting our rail system to allow them. Ask someone from Virginia or Kentucky what their road repairs are like. They have some of the thickest roads in the world in order to support the weight of coal on their highways. Very expensive for those communities - very expensive for us.
Posted by Virginia on November 16, 2012 at 2:48 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 7
What @6 said. Look, coal is dirty. What do expect from compressed ancient trees and ferns?

But it makes a great Hanukkah gift. You can toast smores on it.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on November 16, 2012 at 3:13 PM · Report this
SPG 8
Constant gridlock around our waterfront, coal dust all over town, what's not to like?
Posted by SPG on November 16, 2012 at 3:36 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 9
On the other hand, steampunk looks would totally rock.
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on November 16, 2012 at 4:23 PM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 10
We the taxpayers have paid a LOT of money over the last ten years to bring the railbed between the Canadian border and Portland up to a standard that is appropriate for passenger rail. We've spent equally large ammounts on trainsets, switches, sidings, and station improvements. This will undo that investment and mess up both Sounder and Amtrak's comfort, speed, and potential for expansion.

We should be an exporter of goods, not an exporter of extracted resources.

This needs to be defeated.
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay http://www.danlangdon.com on November 16, 2012 at 4:55 PM · Report this
Ipso Facto 11
I took this picture of a coal train along the waterfront heading into a port somewhere around the grain terminal a couple years ago (I was standing on one of the pedestrian overpasses).

The train was easily a mile long, just endless cars of coal roaring along the tracks. It effectively became a river of carbon, flowing out to the port, and eventually (by way of China, I guess) pouring up into the sky. Just like the vast web of oil pipelines (enough to "wrap around the Earth", and more in the works!).

Seeing the mass of the carbon right there in front of you before it is released into the air helps make the reality a little more tangible. And this mile of coal is but a speck of the mountains of carbon we're releasing into the atmosphere globally.
Posted by Ipso Facto http://therealnews.com on November 16, 2012 at 5:55 PM · Report this
Simone 12
@8, well we could get some black sandy (or rockey) beaches.
Posted by Simone on November 16, 2012 at 10:58 PM · Report this
Westlake, son! 13
@11 beautiful "river of carbon" analogy. There's a lot of truth to that.

This thread made me all rallied up against these damn coal trains. Before I was only mad at the surface street barriers these would create in SoDo, but damn these heavy, slow, pollution spewing beast trains. I don't want my tax dollars working against my dreams of high speed rail while putting more money into the pockets of big coal.

I understand the coal people are just trying to get rich like so many of us, but they need to find a way to get rich that doesn't involve fucking over everyone else and future generations. Go build a solar train.
Posted by Westlake, son! on November 17, 2012 at 8:54 AM · Report this
14
Don't forget the public comment event for Seattle on December 13 at the WA Convention Center, 4pm. Make comments about what you think they should study in the EIS.
Posted by Virginia on November 17, 2012 at 10:16 AM · Report this
15
"this mile of coal is but a speck of the mountains of carbon we're releasing into the atmosphere globally."

And is helping millions of Chinese enjoy some prosperity at last. But fuck 'em right, we got our development.
Posted by Sugartit on November 17, 2012 at 2:27 PM · Report this
Ipso Facto 16
@13: "Go build a solar train." <-- Yes!
Posted by Ipso Facto http://therealnews.com on November 17, 2012 at 5:44 PM · Report this
Ipso Facto 17
Correction to @11: The coal train I photographed was not headed to somewhere "around the grain terminal". That was a silly assumption on my part.

According to this HuffPost article:

Trains currently carry coal through Seattle to the only coal-export terminal on the West Coast located in British Columbia. Shippers are currently required to load the coal in a bread-loaf shape and put a seal on the top to prevent coal dust from flying off, though that rule is currently being challenged, Lundsberg said.
Posted by Ipso Facto http://therealnews.com on November 18, 2012 at 1:35 AM · Report this
18
We moved from our home in Seattle to take up temporary residence in Brisbane, Australia. We live two blocks from the train line that runs from the Queensland coal fields to the port of Brisbane. There are countless coal trains (full) running to the coast and running (empty) back the other direction. It sucks. Don't do it. I'd rather hear float planes all day than coal trains all day. Oh yeah, and it's COAL.
Posted by pommefritz on November 18, 2012 at 4:23 AM · Report this

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