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The health hazards associated with burning coal propelled the group called Whatcom Docs into the fray. With some 180 supporters in the medical community, Whatcom Docs has led opposition, pointing out the dangers of airborne coal dust and of diesel particulates from idling rail engines. In the San Juan Islands, retired scientists, some with degrees in marine sciences, have given the opposition an academic gravitas. See an example here.
And then there is the coalition of Native American tribes supporting the Lummi Nation in its fight to protect historic fishing grounds and a cultural site. Environmental reviews must be sensitive to Native American rights.
A raft of public agencies must be considered players as well; in particular, the Washington cities and counties that worry about the cost of handling the additional coal train traffic. Public-health agencies share many of the health concerns raised by Whatcom Docs. School officials voice concern about the impact of additional noise and traffic on learning, and about compromised safety at the railroad crossings used by school buses. Business organizations that have weighed in on the issue tend to side with proponents, citing job creation at the terminal itself and at associated businesses.
That's the scouting report on the groups facing off over the Gateway Pacific Terminal project. It will be several years before we know which side comes out on top. In Part Two, we'll walk through the tortured and protracted decision-making process. On Thursday, we'll take a look at who finally decides.
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