On Wednesday, April 18th, a coalition led by the Sierra Club and PowerPastCoal.org presented the risks of the Peabody coal transport proposals at the 20th Coal Hard Truth Forum at the Trinity United Methodist Church in Ballard.
Coal Hard Truth Forum presents the risks of Peabody Energy's coal transport proposals
On Wednesday, April 18th, a coalition led by the Sierra Club and PowerPastCoal.org presented their 20th Coal Hard Truth Forum at the Trinity United Methodist Church in Ballard.
These forums are in response to six different proposals throughout the Northwest by Peabody Energy to transport coal mined in Wyoming and Montana by train to terminals along the coast for shipping to Asia. Peabody Energy is the largest, private-sector coal company in the world.
According to information provided by Sierra Club, 48 million tons of coal would be shipped from Montana through Seattle and on to Cherry Point in Bellingham. The open loads would be transported by 4 or 5 diesel engine freight trains that could exceed a mile in length, at a frequency of nine per day (with the empty diesel trains also returning via the same route). Of the numerous Peabody Energy proposals, this one concerns Seattle and Ballard the most.
The well-attended forum did not include any proponents for the proposals, and the goal of the Coal Hard Truth Forum was to introduce members of various groups who have banded together to press the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Commissioner of Public Land, to insist on comprehensive studies before any permits are granted.
Four main speakers spoke to their specific concerns about the aforementioned proposal.
Robin Everett of the Sierra Club cited that Washington State has recently succeeded in closing the remaining coal-fired power plants. She pointed out that the successful effort to be coal-free is now compromised by Washington’s role as a major coal exporter.
Peter Knutsen, commercial fisherman and anthropology professor, discussed the impact of the trains on the marine industry. He pointed out that additional freight traffic over the railroad bridge west of the Ballard Locks could cause severe delays for boat traffic, multiple times per day, as well as congestion in SODO.
Dr. Melissa Weakland, a holistic physician at Ballard Neighborhood Partners, stated that particulates from coal dust have been linked to health risks such as increased asthma, pulmonary problems and cancer. Weakland called for more data that would allow everyone to weigh risk versus benefit.
Lastly, recently retired Lutheran Minister Steve Grumm spoke for Earth Ministries, recounting an early ministry in Wyoming in which they succeeded in closing one highly visible open pit mine only to see it replaced by many more. He said, “I’m struck by the short-sightedness of the faith communities there…we missed the mark and are so we continue to have those holes. We should ask, what role do we have when something like this comes up?”
Overall the forum, the likes of which are being held from Missoula to Bellingham, aims to provide audience members with a call to action by means of petitions, volunteer opportunities, etc to voice their concerns about the proposals from Peabody Coal to elected officials and government agencies. Since the coal trains would pass through Ballard and north to Carkeek Park, the Sierra Club is planning special outreach in this area to businesses and organizations, in order to coordinate opposition to the proposals.
For more information on the proposed coal export, visit http://www.powerpastcoal.org.