By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published June 20, 2012
Petition asks Everett to take stand against coal trains
EVERETT - A grassroots effort to break Everett’s silence on a proposed massive coal-export project that would send coal trains through Everett and other Snohomish County cities is making its way through city neighborhoods and a petition may be presented to Mayor Ray Stephanson next week.
Everett resident Dean Smith is going to neighborhood meetings with a petition because he says he has numerous concerns about the coal trains. The petition asks the mayor to take a resolution against the project to the City Council for a vote.
Elected officials in other cities, including Edmonds, Marysville, Bellingham and Seattle, have signed resolutions opposing the project. Everett officials have not taken a position.
Bellingham is near where the largest of the coal-export terminals is being proposed, called the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point in Whatcom County. The terminal is anticipated to handle 54 million metric tons of mostly coal per year.
Smith believes the heavy coal trains will create landslides along Port Gardner bluff and is concerned about the seismic impact to downtown buildings. He also is concerned about the health effects from coal dust and diesel fumes. (Diesel fumes do not escape the lungs; a World Health Organization report states heavy exposure to diesel fumes causes lung cancer).
Smith said he has observed rail activity along the bluff already causing soil to fall, and he’s concerned how much damage the much heavier coal trains will cause. The big trains will create landslides “waiting to happen” along Grand Avenue, Smith said. He lives two blocks from the tracks.
At least 25 people in three neighborhoods have signed the petition as of last week.
At two neighborhood meetings the Tribune attended last week, nobody opposed Smith’s petition or his concerns about the trains.
Smith said last week he plans to put the petition before the mayor at Monday’s June 25 Council of Neighborhoods meeting.
Stephanson said he hadn’t heard about the petition last week, and he had no comment on what he’d do with it if it arrives.
“I try to focus on the issues I have control over in the city of Everett,” Stephanson said. He said Everett doesn’t have say on what happens on the rail lines running through the city.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Ecology and Whatcom County are leading the environmental review in this state. The proposed terminal and associated rail expansion are required to have an environmental impact statement. The review is in the scoping phase that will decide what impacts to analyze, such as noise and traffic, and the geographic areas to be included in the review.
It could be as late as 2014 before a final environmental impact statement is completed, according to a timeline produced in 2011 by Ecology.
At least one city in Snohomish County has asked to be included in the environmental review. That city is Mukilteo. The city wants Whatcom County to consider the trains’ impact on air quality, landslides and traffic there. The city has not taken a position on the project.
The project is opposed by many on the grounds it encourages dirty energy sources and creates jobs at the risk of the environment and people’s health.
Seattle-based SSA Marine is proposing to run 18 coal trains a day from Wyoming and Montana through Snohomish County to Cherry Point. The coal would be exported to Asian markets.
The 1.6-mile-long coal trains would roll through Everett along tracks under the bluffs of Grand Avenue. Empty trains would go back by way of an at-grade crossing at the Snohomish-Lowell River Road.
In Marysville, the city has 12 at-grade crossings that would back up traffic for several minutes as the slow-rolling trains pass through. Edmonds is concerned about traffic and the impact on its waterfront.