On Dec. 6, a train was stopped due to mechanical problems. For 45 minutes it blocked downtown Mount Vernon intersections, essentially closing down all business traffic. SSA Marine and Peabody Coal propose to build a new coal export facility which will increase train traffic by as many as 18 or more mile-and-half long coal trains per day. How many mechanical problems will block the downtown areas of towns like Marysville and Edmonds? What will be the negative economic effects of traffic congestion in our communities?
On Dec. 7, a coal-carrying ship crashed into the dock of the current coal export facility in Vancouver B.C., destroying the dock and dumping “unspecified amounts” of coal into the water. If coal trains traffic is increased to the Bellingham area, how often will this happen? What will it do to our Puget Sound waters? What will it do to the fishing industry? What will it do the already struggling towns along the railway? Can we afford to let this disruption to our communities happen in order to send coal to China so they can burn it?
It is true that the proposed coal export facility will create some jobs in Whatcom County, and some temporary construction jobs. But according to local fishermen, it could destroy our entire fishing industry. According to local farmers, coal dust has the potential to destroy our local farm communities. And according to recent experiences, coal train traffic can economically hurt our local businesses. A friend just told me he bought property in Kellogg, Idaho, along a railroad track that was turned into a bicycle path. To mitigate the toxic soil near the tracks, 2 to 3 feet of topsoil had to be removed.
I will attend the public hearing in Seattle on Dec. 13, where I will give the Army Corps of Engineers my questions. I want the Environmental Impact Statement to include questions such as these that I consider vital to the quality of our air and water and the future of our community.