City collecting comments on coal trains for letter
EVERETT - Everett published its draft letter stating the city’s concerns on the proposed mega coal export terminal near Bellingham last week.
The city is asking people to send the Everett planning department their own additional comments by Jan. 7. The city will attach these comments to its letter when the city submits its letter to the three agencies conducting the environmental impact analysis on the proposal.
Everett’s two-page letter is published on the city’s planning department webpage.
Coal train opponent Dean Smith said Everett’s letter missed a few points such as the omission of railway noise. His take is that the city didn’t spend much time drafting the letter.
City spokeswoman Kate Reardon did not respond to Smith’s accusation when asked.
Everett’s letter asks the agencies to address 11 different items, including traffic impacts at at-grade crossings, railway impacts to The Boeing Co.’s shipping needs, landslide impacts along Port Gardner bluff, structural impacts the heavy coal trains would have on tunnels downtown and if trains would still pass through Everett to a port in British Columbia if the Bellingham proposal is denied.
A Seattle company is proposing sending 18 coal trains a day from Wyoming and Montana through Snohomish County to the $500 million terminal at Cherry Point. In Everett, full coal trains would go along tracks under the bluffs of Grand Avenue and empty trains would go back by way of an at-grade crossing at the Snohomish-Lowell River Road.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Ecology and Whatcom County are leading the environmental review in this state and are conducting a scoping period asking for comments through Jan. 21.
Smith said asking if trains would go to the British Columbia port and cause job losses here is a “red herring”: Canada doesn’t want this coal.
Canada ships out better coal than the low-grade bituminous coal mined out of Wyoming and Montana, he said.
He’s pushed Everett leaders to take a stand against coal trains like other city governments have. Everett’s City Council has not, but he’s happy the city wrote the letter.
“Maybe I’ve been squeaking loud enough,” Smith said.
The draft letter was handed out at last week’s Council of Neighborhoods meeting. Planning director Allan Giffen said it is unusual to let the public participate in the city’s statement.
Smith doesn’t think the state will approve the terminal proposal because of opposition to the project.
A survey of 500 people bankrolled by a pro-export industry nonprofit found people support the terminal proposal 3 to 1, the group said. The survey from The Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports found 56 percent of Washington voters support the export of coal, 78 percent said the proposed export facilities should be reviewed and evaluated individually and 80 percent were not worried about added rail traffic.
The alliance includes companies and unions in the rail transportation, coal export and other industries.
For more information on the scoping process for the environmental impact statement or how to comment directly, the lead agencies have set up a website at www.eisgatewaypacificwa.gov.
People can send comments to the city by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or postal mail to: City of Everett Planning Department, Attn: Dave Tyler, 2930 Wetmore Ave., Suite 8A, Everett, WA 98201.
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