A yard sign has 'Coal Train' crossed out with a red X. A coalition of Washington state cities and tribes opposes shipping large volumes of coal through the state to a 'superport' for export to China. Photo: seattlemet.com

By Joel Connelly
22 April 2013

(Seattle PI) – Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, oft-faulted for a go-it-alone governing style, became a coalition builder Monday, joining with other city officials and Indian tribes in a new organization designed to build opposition to location of big coal export terminals in Northwest waters.

In an interview, McGinn suggested that the newly formed Leadership Alliance Against Coal will seek outside, non-governmental funding.  Seattle has already done a transportation study on the impact of having as 18 coal trains, each as long as a mile-and-a-half, plying the waterfront each day.

The city is now doing an economic impact study, and the Puget Sound Regional Council has said it will examine various impacts of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point north of Bellingham, which would receive coal from Wyoming and Montana and export it to China.

“These coal trains threaten the health of our communities, the strength of our economies and the environmental and cultural heritage we share:  We stand together to stop the coal trains,”  McGinn said during an Earth Day announcement event.

Earlier, McGinn won a big round of applause during dedication of the Bullitt Center, the world “greenest” commercial office building, when he declared:  “We can export this clean energy technology, instead of coal.”

Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and one of the state’s most influential native American leaders, declared.  “For thousands of years, Washington State tribes have fought to protect all that is important for those who call this  great state home.  We can no longer allow industry and business to pollute our water and land:  We as leaders need to protect our treaty resources, our economies, and the human health of our citizens and neighbors.l”

The coal port battle is likely to become the Northwest’s most intense land — and water — use battle in almost 40 years.  It is taking on strong similarity to the years-long 1970′s battle over whether to locate a “superport” and pipeline terminus to receive and ship out oil from the trans-Alaska pipeline.

Losing business to natural gas, the coal industry has turned to its Wyoming and Montana mines, and to the export market, to revitalize its economic fortunes.  Environmental groups claim coal trains would harm rather than help the Northwest’s economy.  Govs. Jay Inslee of Washington and John Kitzhaber of Oregon want the Obama administration to study impacts on climate change.

Using a longtime industry tactic, supporters of the coal terminal proposals — Big Coal, the railroad industry, and some industrial unions — have formed an “astroturf” grass roots group called the Northwest Alliance for Energy and Jobs.  The pro-coal forces have blanketed Northwest TV with commercials and hired supposedly “green” public relations firms.

The opposition has started at the grassroots level, and spread.

The alliance announced by McGinn and Cladoosby includes city officials from Marysville, Shoreline, Spokane, Edmonds, Sumner, Bainbridge Island and Seattle … as well as officials from the Tulalip Tribes, Lummi Indians, Spokane Indians, and the Swinomish Indians. [more]

Cities, tribes: No coal port, no coal trains here



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