Coal port testimony: The public speaks

Green Acre Radio talks with the people attending public meetings about proposed facilities to export coal to China. The vast majority are opposed.

(Page 2 of 4)

Not all who came to testify in Bellingham were against exporting coal. Laura Hennessy is a spokesperson with the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports, whose members include teamsters, locomotive engineers, the coal industry and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. “We want the shipping terminals to be built not just here but Longview, Grays Harbor, Port of Morrow, Oregon. We feel it’s possible to build the terminals in a way that’s environmentally responsible. We want the state and federal regulators to have a chance to do their job. We want them to do an EIS and mitigate any concerns that come up.” Hennessy was asked about coal and climate change, a common concern heard at the hearing. “That question comes up from time to time and what I usually tell people is that there are many, many people in Asia who need access to power. Asia is actually leading the way in trying to find new ways to retrofit their plants so they use coal in a different way. Clean technology is developing every year. It is a natural resource that we have in plentiful supply here in the Northwest, in the Powder River Basin. It’s a good coal that we feel we can export. I don’t believe this process should be about whether coal is good or not good. It is a power source people use around the world. We think we need to address how we’re going to ship it, how traffic is going to be impacted and how people’s health in the Northwest is going to be impacted.”

Organizers opposed to building regional coal export terminals estimated 95 percent of the crowd were against the proposal. But signs displayed inside the hearing and surrounding neighborhood were both pro, “Citizens for a Working Whatcom County” and against, “Power Past Coal, We Can Do Better”. For more information go to powerpastcoal.org and createnwjobs.com.

In the second part below we include additional public testimony from hearings held in the San Juan Islands and Bellingham on Peabody Coal’s proposal to build North America’s largest coal export terminal at Cherry Point, Bellingham.  We hear from a concerned mother, tribal member, a marine consultant who filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps, and a San Juan Island resident concerned about the impact of more supertankers on  tourism and oil spills.

 

Click on the player above or here to listen to the audio version of this story.

Julie Trimingham’s family has lived in Bellingham, the site of a proposal to build North America’s largest coal export terminal, for generations. During public testimony she said she stands for the right to raise her child in a clean and healthy place. And if she’s to act morally, she must speak for mothers everywhere coal is burned or transported. “How will the coal that we’re exporting to China exacerbate climate change and ocean acidification?” Diesel particulate matter from transporting coal is a serious concern. ”It’s known to cause cancers, heart disease and asthma.” Coal combustion is also a worry. “We all breathe the same air. What burns in Asia doesn’t necessarily stay in Asia. Mercury and other toxins, cross the Pacific Ocean and affect our air, our water.”

At public meetings which began last month and continue into December, issues were raised about congested rail and vessel traffic, public health, tourism and fisheries. Lummi Tribe member Justin Finkbonner, says when supertankers return from China after offloading coal, they enter the Strait of Juan de Fuca and cross near Gooseberry Point where the tribe fishes. “They empty all that water, bring all those pollutants from China, the harbors, where the environmental regulatory standards are way less stringent than ours and those polluted waters are throwing off the balance of the ecosystem here, of the herring beds, and that’s why they can’t survive today.”


Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!

Comments:

Posted Wed, Nov 14, 2:54 p.m. Inappropriate

I keep getting the feeling from these articles that many of the folks testifying don't quite understand what a "scoping" hearing is about. It's purpose is simply to identify the topics to be studied in the proposed project's environmental impact statement. What really matters here is whether the impacts are broadly or narrowly defined. A broad definition would include cumulative impacts to climate change from increased coal-burning and adverse effects to all the communities along the entire rail haul route. A narrow definition would limit the focus to impacts to Cherry Point and its immediate environs. The hearings on whether to actually approve or deny the project's permit applications won't be held until after the EIS is published. Between now and then I'd recommend doing some serious independent research and community organizing -- and saving some of that good righteous anger for later on when it will really matter.

woofer

Posted Thu, Nov 15, 2:08 a.m. Inappropriate

The China Coal Ports are not a good idea. I do not mean to be mean; but could the name "Salish Sea" go away? It is so trite it is gagging.

jhande

Posted Thu, Nov 15, 10:29 a.m. Inappropriate

Salish Sea is the name for the entire watershed of the Puget Sound, Straight of Georgia & Juan De Fuca. The reason that the name was adopted is due to the need for the entire watershed to be managed as one. Americans and Canadians have been serving their own countries interests over the health of the Salish Sea and look at the results.
The fact that the EIS could be limited to Cherry Point underscores this problem. Obviously a coal port that involves trains and boats that transport the coal 1000's of miles is going to impact the entire region.
Believe me the Whatcom County Planning Department is ill equipped to handle such a review process. Their job is to approve work, which brings in revenue that keeps their jobs going.
Remember Clark County, the fastest growing county in the State, well now the entire planning department has been laid off.
So to call the Salish Sea name trite is to miss the point, as where we are at is a crossroad, do we keep choosing jobs over the negative impact to the environment, or do we stop using dirty energy and create better jobs that don't harm the environment? Do we allow individual companies and land owners to develop more land at the expense of the overall health of the region?
Bellingham claims they don't know why their Herring population crashed at Cherry Point. So why would they consider another polluting project? Because they want the money. An EIS doesn't stop any project, it just adds a few band-aides to appease the opposition.

Blake

Posted Thu, Nov 15, 10:49 a.m. Inappropriate

Here is the data: The Cherry Point area was historically the most highly productive area for herring in Puget Sound, producing an estimated 32 percent of all the known herring spawning in the Sound, prior to a precipitous decline of 94 percent from 1973 to 2000

Blake

Posted Wed, Feb 26, 6:42 a.m. Inappropriate

Pictures may be two-dimensional, for instance, a photograph, screen show, and a three-dimensional, for instance, a statue or hologram. They may be captured by optical devices – such ascameras, mirrors, lenses, telescopes, microscopes, et cetera and standard things and phenomena.
photo gallery

white

Login or register to add your voice to the conversation.

Join Crosscut now!
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Follow Us »