Letter to the Editor: Join other citizens in opposing proposed coal terminal

By Liz Talley

In Ballard we are changing our image from quiet coffee drinkers to community activists and are working to stop proposed coal trains from entering our area.

It all started small just north of here in Bellingham, WA, with concerns about environmental damage if coal companies and SSA Marine were allowed to build a proposed coal exporting facility. Their concerns became ours, as information was passed along and folks in Ballard heard what the impacts would be to our unique area.

Since then, we've been holding neighborhood meetings, getting politicians to speak up, collecting signatures on petitions and posting "Power Past Coal" yard signs throughout the area.

The City Council and Mayor are in agreement with us, and the Council passed a resolution against coal trains, as did many other communities along the tracks throughout Washington State.

There are many reasons for this anti-coal train effort.

First off, the trains are uncovered, so coal dust blows off the open bed cars as they travel across our State. Right now about three trains come through a day on their way up to Canada, for the coal to be shipped to China.

Secondly, there are traffic concerns for the towns and cities along the route. It impacts Ballard, where 18 trains would be added daily. But it really impacts Spokane, WA, where a proposed 60 trains would be added daily.

Our Ballard neighborhood sits right on Puget Sound and the proposed coal trains would be rumbling along our waterfront blowing coal dust onto the beaches of Golden Gardens and Carkeek Park. I worry about the health impacts associated with coal dust and diesel particulate matter that comes from the trains, such as asthma, respiratory problems and even lung cancer.

I'm concerned that heavy trains create an increase in land slides in residential areas along the tracks, due to the weight and vibrations of heavier cargo on the rails.

There is also concern about delays for emergency vehicles having access across the tracks with so many extra trains. Extra traffic may amount to over an additional two hours daily of closed access to our streets that cross the tracks.

Finally the proposed export terminal up at Cherry Point near Bellingham, WA, has been rejected by the Lummi Indian Nation which holds that location as sacred. They have told the coal companies and SSA Marine that under no circumstances will they ever be allowed to destroy their legacy and build there.

Many locals here in Ballard have made a choice to live in this community for the clean air and water. It's a place where many choose to bicycle to work to keep their carbon footprints smaller. It's a place where we compost and recycle. It's a place that would never, ever, under any circumstances agree to become the new coal exporter for coal going to China.

If you're of the same opinion, I hope to see you at the Environmental Review Meeting on Thursday, Dec. 13 at 4:00 p.m. at the Washington State Convention Center, where the EPA and Department of Ecology will be collecting citizen feedback and concerns about this proposal.

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