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Seattle, tribal leaders oppose coal trains

Coalition concerned about effects of increased train traffic in the state

The Columbian
Published: April 22, 2013, 5:00pm

SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and other city and tribal leaders have formed a new coalition to oppose coal trains and coal exports in the region.

At a news conference Monday, the leaders raised concerns about the impacts that increased coal train traffic through Washington state would have on street traffic, human health and the environment.

Five ports proposed in Washington and Oregon would ship as much as 140 millions of tons of coal a year from Montana and Wyoming’s Powder River basin, where it could travel by rail through communities such as Spokane and Seattle before being loaded onto ships bound for Asia.

“We will stand together to stop the coal trains,” McGinn said Monday.

Trains already carry coal from the Rockies through Washington state for export through British Columbia. Opponents worry that increased rail traffic would create more congestion and other problems for people living near rail tracks.

The new alliance said it plans to urge state and federal agencies to deny permits for the proposals.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state agencies are reviewing three projects: one in Oregon at the Port of Morrow in Boardman, and two in Washington, in Longview and north of Bellingham.

Supporters say the projects would create jobs, generate millions in tax revenues, boost the local economy and expand trade and exports, which have played a central role in the economies of Washington and Oregon. They note that the projects will undergo rigorous environmental reviews.

“Local, state and federal regulators deserve a chance to review the projects with rigor, and that’s what they are doing. We will wait for what they find,” said Lauri Hennessey, a spokeswoman for Alliance for NW Jobs & Exports, a trade group that includes BNSF Railway and top U.S. coal producers.

But Jay Julius, a council member with Lummi Nation, whose lands are close to the proposed coal-export terminal near Bellingham, said Monday that “the proposed project must not and will not go forward.”

“The impacts can’t be mitigated,” said Julius, noting the project would harm tribal fishing rights and burial grounds.

The Leadership Alliance Against Coal includes leaders from the Tulalip Tribes, Swinomish Tribal Community and Lummi Nation. City leaders are from Seattle, King County, Spokane, Edmonds, Marysville and others.