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October 1, 9:37 AM click here to comment > 0

36 Northwest leaders call on President Obama and government agencies to conduct broad and inclusive review of coal exports

Thirty six elected and tribal officials from the Pacific Northwest are calling on the state and federal governments to conduct a broad, inclusive review of all three coal export sites proposed for Washington and Oregon. In letters to President Barack Obama, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Washington Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington Department of Ecology, the members of the Leadership Alliance Against Coal raise important concerns about the impacts to public health, the environment, the local economy, traffic, and the climate of coal trains and coal exports at the proposed sites.

“We believe it is necessary to consider the three terminals together, in a cumulative impact analysis, in order to understand the full breadth of the impacts,” write the officials in their letter to President Obama. “We urge you to direct the Army Corps of Engineers or another federal agency to conduct a broad analysis of the impacts of coal export, including the impacts of mining in Wyoming and Montana, transporting the coal via rail across state lines, shipping it through our waters and eventually burning it in Asia. We need to understand the full impact of these proposals on our local communities, on our environment and on our health; and the federal government needs to take the lead.”

“Coal trains and coal exports will have a major and harmful impact on our communities, our environment, and our climate,” said Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. “These elected officials have come together to urge our state and federal leaders to look at the cumulative impact of these coal proposals so that we can make the right decision for our future.”

“I felt compelled to sign onto these letters because of my grave concerns over the potential deleterious effects on our environment, but also on the health and wellbeing of our residents as well as for those of Wyoming, Montana and of Asian countries. We must know fully what we’d be getting into and, even more so, whether we should indeed be getting into it at all.” – Washington State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, 36th Legislative District

“In my community, Helena, Montana, both the shipping of the coal and the burning of the coal will have a significant negative environmental impact. Helena is bisected by the railroad, and most of our crossings are at grade. A significant increase in coal trains will increase vehicle emissions for those who live near the tracks, and negatively impact our ability to provide emergency services. Helena’s primary source of drinking water is threatened by climate change–a major forest fire, due to hotter, drier weather, would put our surface source of drinking water out of commission for years. I urge consideration of all of these issues in a comprehensive environmental review.” – Commissioner Katherine Haque-Hausrath, City of Helena, Montana

“We hope that this many elected leaders, speaking with one voice, will be heard. The citizens in each of our communities deserve to know what the cumulative effects of these proposed terminals will be!” – Council President Ben Stuckart, City of Spokane, Washington

“In taking a lead against coal transportation in the Columbia River Gorge, the City of Hood River’s April 2012 resolution is urging the Governor and other decision makers to work on a comprehensive policy to prevent the shipping of coal through the Columbia River Gorge by rail or barge. The City of Hood River does not have the equipment or personnel with special training, to fight coal fires on trains or barges. Infamous Gorge winds could fan these long burning fires to both sides of the Columbia River in what could become an unprecedented manmade disaster in the National Scenic Area, destroying homes, businesses, and our natural environment.” – Councilmember Kate McBride, City of Hood River, Oregon

“The proposed coal trains pose a detriment to the health, economy, and quality of life of the people and communities I represent. I stand united with other Northwest leaders in protecting the prosperity and beauty of our region by raising concerns about coal trains.” – Councilmember Larry Phillips, King County, Washington

The letters thank President Obama and Governor Inslee for their leadership on climate issues, and ask them to assist in conducting a broad, cumulative review of the proposed coal exports. The letter to President Obama asks him to direct the Army Corps of Engineers or another federal agency to conduct a review of the exports, including the impact of mining operations in Montana and Wyoming, shipping it by rail to a terminal in Washington, and the impact of burning the coal in Asia.

The letter to the Army Corps of Engineers urges them to reconsider an earlier decision to conduct a limited review of the coal export terminals. Instead, the leaders argue in their letter that “the Corps has an obligation under the National Environmental Policy Act to consider environmental effects of these projects both inside and outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.” They go on to cite greenhouse gases and other toxic pollutants, such as mercury, that will be emitted by burning the coal abroad and blown by winds over the Pacific Ocean to impact communities in the United States.

The letter to Governor Inslee and the Washington Department of Ecology expresses thanks for the decision announced last month that the Department of Ecology will include in its environmental review of the Gateway Pacific Terminal the statewide rail and health impacts as well as the global climate impacts from the coal export proposal, and asks for their support for an environmental review that includes all three proposed coal export sites.

The Leadership Alliance Against Coal is a coalition of over 75 elected and tribal leaders from Washington, Oregon, and Montana organized to raise awareness about and oppose the damaging economic, cultural, and health impacts of coal trains and exports.

The following elected officials have signed the three letters:

• Mayor Arthur Babitz, Hood River, Oregon
• Councilmember Joan Bloom, Edmonds, Washington
• Councilmember Tim Burgess, Seattle, Washington
• Mayor Stephen H. Buxbaum, Olympia, Washington
• Councilmember Richard Conlin, Seattle, Washington
• Councilmember Rick DeGloria, Burlington, Washington
• Councilmember Nancy Dumas, Sumner, Washington
• Mayor Dave Earling, Edmonds, Washington
• Deputy Mayor Chris Eggen, Shoreline, Washington
• State Representative Jessyn Farrell, Washington
• Councilmember Mark Gamba, Milwaukie, Oregon
• Councilmember Jean Godden, Seattle, Washington
• Councilmember Jennifer Gregerson, Mukilteo, Washington
• Mayor Charlie Hales, Portland, Oregon
• Councilmember Will Hall, Shoreline, Washington
• Commissioner Katherine Haque-Hausrath, Helena, Montana
• State Representative Ruth Kagi, Washington
• State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Washington
• Councilmember Michael Lilliquist, Bellingham, Washington
• Council President Randy Lord, Mukilteo, Washington
• Councilmember Kate McBride, Hood River, Oregon
• Councilmember Doris McConnell, Shoreline, Washington
• Congressman Jim McDermott, Washington
• Mayor Mike McGinn, Seattle, Washington
• Mayor Keith McGlashan, Shoreline, Washington
• State Senator Ed Murray, Washington
• Mayor John Nehring, Marysville, Washington
• Chairman Rudy Peone, Spokane Tribal Council
• Councilmember Larry Phillips, King County, Washington
• Mayor Kitty Piercy, Eugene, Oregon
• Councilmember Ken Quam, Mount Vernon, Washington
• Councilmember Chris Roberts, Shoreline, Washington
• Councilmember Jesse Salomon, Shoreline, Washington
• Councilmember Stan Snapp, Bellingham, Washington
• Council President Ben Stuckart, Spokane, Washington
• Councilmember Shari Winstead, Shoreline, Washington

The complete letters can be viewed here:

Letter to President Obama
Letter to Army Corps of Engineers
Letter to Governor Inslee and Washington Department of Ecology

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Posted by: Robert Cruickshank

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