Northwest Voices | Letters to the Editor
Coal-train controversy in Washington state
Keep covering this important local issue
With the recent decision of Grays Harbor to turn down coal shipments from the Powder River Basin into their port, once again the coal-train controversy comes into public view [“Company shelves Hoquiam coal-export plan,” NWWednesday, Aug. 15]. As a native Washingtonian, I was alerted to this issue by a friend earlier this summer and I am extremely concerned by the prospect of these coal trains traveling through some of the most pristine areas of Washington (including the Columbia Gorge, where there has already been a derailment and dumping of 10-20 cars of coal).
While The Times’ recent article reported on the decision at the Grays Harbor terminal not to allow the coal trains to terminate there for shipment to China, the much, much larger story here is the untold harm to global air for the world’s citizens that this coal will have once it reaches China and is burned in Chinese coal plants. I therefore completely oppose any plans for Powder River Basin coal to be exported; it is bad enough that we still have coal-fired plants in this country.
I consider the “coal-trains” issue so serious and such a threat that I have become active in the fight to stop these trains from traveling through the Western states and the export of this coal to China, dirtying not only the Washington environment they would pass through, but global air, even as the climate-change crisis worsens every year.
I hope that The Seattle Times will assist its readers in a further understanding of the great threat and potential deleterious impact on cities both small and large in Washington state (through which the trains would be traversing) by frequent articles on this vitally important subject.
— Lorie A. Lucky, Seattle
An idea of the past
I am pleased to see that RailAmerica told the Port of Grays Harbor commissioners that it is shelving current plans to build a coal-storage and export facility at the port’s Terminal 3 in Hoquiam.
I grew up in England during the time when coal was the main source of home heating. Coal smoke poisoned the air and was the cause of those hideous “pea-soup” fogs which were a common occurrence back then. Once coal was banned in England in the ’60s, the change in the quality of the air, not to mention the reduction in related health problems, was astonishing; natural gas was the new clean energy from then on.
It’s inconceivable to me that in 2012, the U.S. is still using coal at all and considers it to be a viable option. This idea is so last century! And by the way, there’s absolutely no such thing as clean coal. It’s dirty, it’s poisonous and it’s harmful to our planet and all living things.
— Amanda Bradley, Brier
Focus on regional jobs or climate change?
There has been considerable discussion about six proposed coal-export terminals in Washington and Oregon. These terminals, if built, will create regional jobs in transportation, terminal construction and terminal operations.
However, there are negatives related to these proposals, with the most significant being climate change. Most members of the scientific community agree that climate change is occurring at a rapid rate and already is having far-reaching impacts, mostly adverse, on much of the world. Most scientists agree that climate change is man-made, with the burning of fossil fuels being the major cause.
That being the case, I challenge business, labor and government supporters of these coal terminals to justify their positions in terms of cost/benefit. Are more regional jobs worth the long-term impact on future generations? If so, how can we mitigate the adverse effect that burning this coal will have, even far away in Asia? Aren’t we being shortsighted if we focus on regional jobs and ignore the climatic effect?
My skepticism may be unpopular with many within the maritime industry of which I was once a part. I also have been involved in Washington’s environmental industry for the past 22 years and I am deeply concerned about the lack of public awareness and political will regarding the damage fossil fuels are doing to our planet.
— Jeremy Mattox, Seattle