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Home » Archives » February 2012 » Letter On Coal Terminals in our Backyard

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02/22/2012: "Letter On Coal Terminals in our Backyard"


To The Editor:

On Thursday, February 9, my husband and I went to a community meeting on the proposed sites for coal terminals in Washington and Oregon.

I haven’t seen much press about the proposal which surprises me. If the terminals that are proposed are approved, they will cause great harm to our environment, health, economy and well-being of Washingtonians and Oregonians.

The two largest coal companies, Arch Coal and Peabody, along with Australian-based Ambre Energy are working on very large coal export terminals so they can ship their coal to Asia. The proposed terminals would be located at:
Cherry Point, north of Bellingham, WA
Longview, WA
Grays Harbor
Boardman, OR
Coos Bay, OR; and
St. Helens, OR

The strip mining begins in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana. The coal is strip-mined, polluting water and destroying rangeland and habitat; not to mention the dramatic increase of air pollution not only in the coal mines but in the local communities.

Then the coal is moved along rail lines to Washington and Oregon’s coast endangering every community along the way. It is estimated that 500 pounds of coal can be lost in the form of dust from each rail car en route. Incidentally, the trains are supposed to be 1 ½ miles long. Communities in and along rail lines and near the coal export terminals could see 20 or more coal trains through town every day. Coal dust from coal trains can cause serious long-term health problems like lung and heart disease and cancer. Toxic and heavy metals (mercury) would pollute our air and water. A single large coal plant can emit upwards of 10 million tons of climate pollution a year. The proposed site at Cherry Point would span 1200 acres, fill 131 acres of wetlands and sit directly on herring grounds, which is a primary food source for Chinook salmon. And what fish do our Orcas eat?

After the coal reaches the terminal, then it is loaded on what I am told the world’s largest ships which are the most accident prone. The ongoing threat to wetlands, waterways and wildlife from potential ship collisions is frightening. There will be an additional 400 plus ships per year taking 48 million tons of coal to Asia. The ships would clog the Straits of San Juan de Fuca and Georgia. With the addition of all these ships, many of the ships require that their ballast water be exchanged. Every day, the large quantities of ballast water from these ships will be discharged into our waters. Carried in this water are plants, animals, bacteria, and pathogens. These organisms range in size from microscopic to large plants and free-swimming fish. These organisms have the potential to become aquatic nuisance species (ANS). ANS may displace native species, degrade native habitats, spread disease, and disrupt human social and economic activities that depend on water resources. In addition, when these ships are in port, they are burning tons of diesel adding to the air pollution of the blowing coal dust.

This is a dirty fuel which will poison our air, water, fish and food supply! I don’t want this in our backyard, much less anywhere in our world, do you? You may as well kiss fishing goodbye, let alone being able to live and breathe.

For more information and to sign the petition for “No More Coal,” please go to www.powerpastcoal.org.

Toni Bailey
San Juan Island

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