Coal train foes, supporters pack Seattle hearing

SEATTLE — Hundreds of people dressed in red rallied in Freeway Park on Thursday afternoon to protest the proposed Gateway Pacific marine export terminal at Cherry Point.

The terminal would bring more trains laden with coal to the region, including on the railroad tracks that run through Snohomish County.

Most at the rally wore red shirts that read “Beyond Coal Exports” and carried signs that said “No Coal Exports. We Can Do Better.”

Among them was Robyn Ingham, of Edmonds. She wore a sign attached to her red headband.

“People who support this say hundreds of jobs will be created, but how many thousands of people will have their health jeopardized by the coal dust off these trains?” Ingham said. “And what about climate changes due to coal being burned in China? That’s where this coal is headed.”

After the rally, people filed into the Washington State Convention Center. About 2,500 people packed two large ballrooms at the center, where those selected by lottery testified during a public hearing run by the state Department of Ecology, the Whatcom County Council and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In the hearing rooms, a sea of anti-coal red, including Santa hats and Christmas sweaters, was punctuated by people wearing green shirts labeled with “Let’s Get to Work.”

Rodney Bakken, of Bothell, who held a sign with the same slogan, attended the hearing to show his support for the proposed $600 million shipping terminal near Ferndale in Whatcom County.

“We hear all the time that we lack jobs. Well, this is an opportunity to provide some good work,” Bakken said. “All human activity creates an impact on our environment. The railroad has proved it has a good safety record. If we don’t have this terminal here, the jobs will go someplace else.”

Tulalip Tribes Chairman Mel Sheldon spoke at the rally and then at the hearing.

“The Tulalip Tribes support job creation. We are one of the largest employers in our area,” Sheldon said. “But we will not tolerate anything that poses threats to our cultural resources, our health and our treaty rights to fish, hunt and gather. The tribes and local, state and federal governments have worked hard to improve the environment, but it won’t mean much if we find coal dust in fragile waters of the Salish Sea.”

The tribes also are concerned about the marine tanker traffic and impacts to the regional economy.

“In Marysville, 18 of those mile-long coal trains running through our community each day causing long traffic delays is unacceptable,” Sheldon said. “And we will never put up with the degradation of our Coast Salish sacred lands. Tulalip says ‘hell no’ to coal.”

Jay Julius, of the Lummi Tribe near Ferndale, talked about the sacred lands at Cherry Point.

“Our ancestors are buried there, and no amount of conveyor ramps overhead will mitigate for the location of that terminal,” Julius said. “Would you allow a shipping ramp over Arlington National Cemetery or Gettysburg or Jerusalem?”

Trains running on Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks would bring coal from Wyoming and Montana through the state, including through Edmonds, Mukilteo, Everett, Marysville, Lakewood and Stanwood.

In Edmonds, Marysville and Stanwood, trains run at the same grade as automobile traffic. The long trains could cause major traffic problems, officials in those cities have said.

Colleen Rowe and Mike Shaw, a retired married couple from Edmonds, have lived nearly their entire lives near the railroad tracks in their hometown.

Shaw said he is concerned about coal dust in his garden, where arsenic, lead and mercury could harm the food he grows.

“And at just the current level of coal trains passing by our home, when Colleen cleans our inside windows, her dust cloth is black,” Shaw said. “What is being proposed could lead to a serious degradation of our lives.”

The hearing Thursday was the largest and last in a series of six public meetings about the Gateway Pacific Terminal, which is proposed by SSA Marine Inc., of Seattle. People still have until Jan. 21 to comment at www.eisgate waypacificwa.gov.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

More in Local News

Designed for special emergencies, texting 911 widely misused

The majority of texts dispatchers receive are better handled by calling, a SNOPAC official says.

Signs show the rates for using the express toll lanes for traffic headed southbound on Interstate 405, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, in Bothell, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee announced plans Tuesday to try to decrease congestion on I-405 in answer to commuter complaints that the new express lane tolling system is making traffic worse. The governor said he would not be shutting down the tolling system as some people have called for. But the state transportation department is making plans to add new northbound general purpose lanes to ease some of the congestion and also plan to make it easier to move into and out of the express lanes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
After a 2-year trial, are I-405’s toll lanes here to stay?

Lawmakers will decide whether to keep them or end the experiment and try something else.

Weary drivers using toll lanes say they have little choice

Congestion continues to be a tedious reality for commuters on I-405, which is as clogged as ever.

Arlington woman dies 4 days after Marysville crash

She was on the northbound onramp from Fourth Street to I-5 when her pickup hit a tree and fence.

Council passes six-month moratorium on safe injection sites

Proposal by County Councilman Nate Nehring passed unanimously.

Terrace woman held following collision in Everett

The three occupants in vehicle were transported to a local hospital in serious condition.

Information sought on drive-by shooting in Everett

Debris from an apparent crash, evidence of gunfire found in the 2800 block of California Street.

Longboarders from near and far hit the trail in Arlington

The Centennial Sk8 Festival was serious competition for some and just for fun for others.

Everett’s lawsuit against maker of OxyContin can proceed

Purdue Pharma says it’s not liable for the impacts of opioid addiction and wanted the case tossed.

Most Read