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Coal Trains & Export Terminals

Transparent Statement:
I am against mile-long coal trains and export terminals.

I volunteered for the Sierra Club during the hearings in Seattle regarding the coal trains and proposed coal export terminal in Cherry Point. So yes, I am against both.

Coal trains can be up to 2 miles long, which holds us traffic — and more importantly, emergency vehicles like police, firefighters and ambulances. That creates a dangerous and annoying situation. This happens because the trains run at ground level. Alas, the trains were here first, but the roads were not built around them.

Unfortunately, trains are mostly regulated by the Federal government, so the State has very limited options. We cannot simply outlaw the trains. We cannot even force the train companies to pay more than a small share of the cost of moving trains away from traffic.

Putting aside the traffic issues though, coal trains spew toxic coal dust — lots of it. That is why I am against coal trains. Ironically, the railroads themselves sued their biggest customers (the coal companies) because of the dangerous potential of coal dust derailing a train.

I am against coal export terminals for a few very simple reasons:

  1. The terminals dump coal in huge open-air piles, which the wind then picks up and dumps in the surrounding communities and Puget Sound.
  2. The terminals violate the rights of Native American tribes.

  3. The number of jobs created by the terminals is minimal relative to the number of people negatively impacted by the terminals themselves.

There are obviously lots of other reasons to dislike coal and the coal companies. But the simple fact is that demand for coal is decreasing around the world. This is unlikely to change. There is little benefit to Washington state to warrant the risk of destroying our own environment just so others can burn coal that we, as a state, have decided we do not want.

(Note: Yes, I know that Puget Sound Energy purchases a lot of electricity from its own coal-based power plant in Montana. Hopefully that will be converted to a cleaner fuel source in the near future.)

Steve Rubenstein for Governor | Privacy Policy