Anti-coal group prepares for hearings

James Wells makes a demonstration on the potentially negative impacts of a proposed coal export facility on the city of Marysville.  - Lauren Salcedo
James Wells makes a demonstration on the potentially negative impacts of a proposed coal export facility on the city of Marysville.
— image credit: Lauren Salcedo

MARYSVILLE — Coal Free Washington gathered at the Evergreen Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on July 26, to talk about how a potential coal export facility in Bellingham could affect Marysville.

The group is a collaboration of the Sierra Club, Transition Port Gardner and the Green Team at Evergreen Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

“Right now, there are three trains a day in each direction,” said Jennie Lindberg, president of Transition Port Gardner, a community group hoping to make a transition from corporate-based economy to a local-based economy. “If they build the facility, then it will be an additional 18 trains per day.”

SSA Marine has filed a permit with Whatcom County to build an export facility at Cherry Point. As the permitting process is underway, a scoping period is set to open in August or September, allowing research of potential issues.

“The permit application has been filed so we are waiting for regulators to open up the first comment period,” said Robin Everett of the Sierra Club.

“It is important that people know this is going to affect us so significantly in the future,” said Everett. “This area should be concerned about this because Marysville has 12 at-grade railway crossings.”

Coal Free Washington held a meeting on July 26, and James Wells, a Whatcom County resident who has researched the effects of coal and coal trains, presented to the group and offered suggestions on how to make effective public comments.

“This is an opportunity for you to request them to ‘Please study this,’” said Wells of the upcoming public hearings. “There are many different issues, blocked crossings, air pollution, marine impacts, global warming. This is your chance to ask that they study those impacts.”

The group is focused on preventing the facility from being built at Cherry Point, citing multiple negative impacts including derailments, contamination, traffic and more.

On July 27, a new regional non-profit trade organization called the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports launched in support of the development of coal export terminals, stating that they could stimulate our local economies.

But Coal Free Washington argues that construction jobs would be temporary and that the facility itself would only generate roughly 200 jobs.

“Coal does not produce that many jobs for how valuable the shoreline is,” said Wells, who also noted that in communities such as Marysville and Everett there would be no increase in jobs. “But there would definitely be more trains,” he said.

The Coal Free Washington group meets the last Thursday of every month at the Evergreen Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. For more information about the group call Dean Smith at 425-328-9979.


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