Councilman Roberts asks for info on coal trains
EVERETT - The city of Everett may soon get involved in the highly watched proposed coal export terminal project that would bring large coal trains through Everett and other cities in Snohomish County to ports elsewhere in the state.
City Councilman Paul Roberts at the council’s Aug. 8 meeting requested that city staff look into the environmental impacts and have Everett participate in the project’s environmental review.
Debra Bryant, chief administrative assistant, said Aug. 8 she would have staff work on the request.
City spokeswoman Kate Reardon said the city is waiting to see what other stakeholders officially have to say about the project before wading into the issue.
A resident recently passed around a petition that asks the City Council to oppose the project through a resolution, but it appears the city isn’t ready to go that far.
Resident Dean Smith canvassed neighborhoods earlier this summer to petition Mayor Ray Stephanson to have the city take a stand against the coal trains.
Smith said he was happy to hear someone on the council was talking about the issue.
“I’m glad to hear (about Roberts’ request),” Smith said. “I’m glad someone wants to make a statement on it.”
Smith still wants to meet with Stephanson, but he said he hasn’t had time to set that meeting up yet.
Seattle-based SSA Marine is proposing to run 18 coal trains a day from Wyoming and Montana through Snohomish County to a proposed $500 million port at Cherry Point near Bellingham called the Gateway Pacific Terminal. The terminal is anticipated to handle 48 million tons of mostly coal per year, which represents almost half of the coal the entire country currently exports, according to a KUOW public radio series on this project. The coal would be sent to Asia.
Asia currently uses 5 billion tons of coal per year. This project would represent 2 percent of that market, according to the KUOW series.
The project will take years to go through the environmental review, and cities are signing up to participate in that review. The review will begin this fall. Everett has been silent so far and until Roberts’ request appeared reluctant to devote time to the issue.
Elected officials in Edmonds, Marysville, Seattle and Bellingham all signed resolutions opposing the project, although those cities would be more directly impacted by health issues, rail traffic and waterfront impacts. Mukilteo signed off on a cautious letter in April expressing concern and a desire to be involved in the environmental review process. In Everett, the opposition has been at the grassroots level.
It could be as late as 2014 before a final environmental impact statement is completed, according to a timeline produced in 2011 by the state Department of Ecology. Three regulatory agencies — Ecology, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Whatcom County — are leading the review in this state.
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. Mukilteo is concerned about the impact on its waterfront.
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