Marysville would be hurt by coal exports in Bellingham, panel says during forum

MARYSVILLE — A proposed coal-export terminal near Bellingham is likely to affect residents in Marysville and in other cities throughout Snohomish County.

That was the main message Thursday night from a panel of four people who spoke to about 100 people during the “Coal Hard Truth” forum at Totem Middle School. No one in favor of the project spoke at the meeting.

The Power Past Coal Coalition, which consists of more than 50 organizations, planned the event to inform residents about coal export proposals in the state. The Power Past Coal Coalition includes the Sierra Club, Climate Solutions and Transition Port Gardner.

SSA Marine, a Bellevue-based seaport operator, has proposed constructing a port at Cherry Point, north of Bellingham. That proposal would add up to 18 round-trip trains per day through Marysville and does not benefit residents in the city, Mayor Jon Nehring said.

“We already have a number of trains crossing through our city right now,” he said. “It’s very difficult to solve the problem of getting around the tracks. It’s so important to us in particular to stop this project from happening.”

Nehring added that he believes new jobs created by such a project would also not benefit Marysville residents.

Also on the panel were Nicole Keenan, an organizer for the Washington Environmental Council; Dean Smith, of Transition Port Gardner; and Snohomish County Health District health officer Dr. Gary Goldbaum.

Goldbaum brought up several medical concerns that doctors believe are related to coal dust and fuel exhaust. He urged those who attended to ask that an assessment of health effects be completed if the proposal moves forward.

“We have a lot of scientific evidence that exhaust can cause problems, but what we don’t know here is how much exhaust is going to be produced and what’s going to happen based on the local weather conditions and geography,” he said. “It simply needs to be considered before a decision is made.”

Everett resident Sierra Zweig, who is part of the Occupy Everett movement, said she planned to write letters to state Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, the Department of Ecology and Army Corps of Engineers about the proposed project.

“I have a deep concern over the hold corporations have over public policy and development issues, so those two things coming together made me think this was the place I needed to be,” she said.

A follow-up meeting is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 1 at Firewheel Books and Beans, 2820 Oakes Ave. in Everett. The meeting is to help residents get organized around working to stop the coal export terminal proposal, said Dan Klimke of Transition Port Gardner.

Organizers of the event told the crowd the application for the project has not been received by Whatcom County and urged people to write to their elected officials and ask that the proposal be stopped.

A Whatcom County official handling the project did not return phone calls on Friday.

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; adaybert@heraldnet.com.

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