Jul 30, 2014

Where We Live: Inslee, Local Politicians Need to Stop the Coal Trains

Time for us to concentrate on improving our state.

Where We Live: Inslee, Local Politicians Need to Stop the Coal Trains

"The election is over; now the real work begins.”

We elected Jay Inslee governor and many expect him to be the greenest governor in US history. He certainly has the legislative record to back it up, and he wrote the book on transitioning to a green economy- literally- it’s called “ Apollo’s Fire- Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy” Still, he hasn’t clearly stated his antipathy to a new coal port terminal in Washington, and it’s past time he did.

I wrote about it back in April. All those coal trains I noted? They’re going to Tsawassen, BC. A west coast terminal for Wyoming Powder River coal has been proposed for Longview, Cherry Point, and other ports in Washington and Oregon, and we’re being barraged by all those Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports warm, fuzzy, “patriotic” ads touting the idea, but we’ll get paltry good from it.

According to the Seattle Times around 1900 (+/- 200) short-term jobs will come from building a Cherry Point terminus, and 300 - 400 will be permanent at the mostly-automated facility, and more railroad crew will be bringing the 9 to 18 additional trains a week through here, slowing Seattle’s traffic, and Edmonds’ and Mukilteo’s and everyone else’s. And all the coal coming out of Wyoming and Montana supports only about 7,000 jobs of all sorts there, according to Eric de Place of Sightline Institute, so it’s not a believable argument to say we should invest in coal exports to create jobs here.

We’ll also have to live with all the pollution at the terminal, and all the toxic, pathogenic dust emitted from the cars along the whole route, and all the pollution we export to China along with the black rocks. As soon as they burn it all that CO2, carbon monoxide, mercury, arsenic, lead and other heavy metals, and massive amounts of sulfur dioxide, which directly produces sulfuric acid, along with literal tons of particulates and aerosols, will be poisoning their land, water, and air. Ugly in every way. Not something you would do to your children, right? So why would we do it to someone else’s?! You don’t even have to be that altruistic. Whatever they burn in China WE will receive back from them in the air and water. Remember the strangely brilliant sunsets a few years ago? Dust from the Gobi Desert dust storms- reaching us. Here.

But wait- there’s more! The Washington State Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification- co-chaired by Jay Manning, who spoke in Shoreline a few weeks ago- just released its report, and it’s grim reading. A lot is going on, and the lowering pH is killing our seafood and the food of most of the rest of the food chain! Let’s skip another 30 – 50 years into our future, though, and all the additional acidification our coal exports put into the sea will upwell off our coast and will be killing off the last of our fish and shellfish. Hyperbole? If the pteropods (little zooplankton critters you’ve probably never heard of) die off- and they’re already among the worst affected by acidification- they take most of the salmon and a hundred other critters which eat them, sea lions, orcas, bears and eagles (which eat salmon)… and all the rest of the dominos fall.

The result is we’ll have a tiny proportion of a small number of jobs (likely none at all here in Shoreline/LFP and Edmonds) while dealing with the toxic and disruptive evils of it in full measure. Does that sound like anything anyone should actually back?! Only if well-paid by Big Coal, I suspect, or so deluded they can hardly tie their shoes. Let’s balance that against 42,000 Washingtonians employed just in the seafood industries and do the math, shall we?

This is a devil’s bargain, and the blowback is lethal. What do we do? The Panel recommends six broad-strokes jobs to do:

1. Reduce emissions of carbon dioxide;

2. Reduce local land-based contributions to ocean acidification;

3. Increase our ability to adapt to and remediate the impacts of ocean acidification;

4. Invest in Washington’s ability to monitor and investigate the causes and effects of ocean acidification;

5. Inform, educate, and engage stakeholders, the public, and decision makers in responding to ocean acidification; and

6. Maintain a sustainable and coordinated focus on ocean acidification at all levels of government.

The Executive Summary goes on: “Washington State will need to respond vigorously to ocean acidification if we are going to avoid significant and possibly irreversible losses to our marine environment and all it supports, including shellfish farming and wild harvest of shellfish and other commercially and culturally important marine species. Public investment by the state is needed, as are public-private partnerships that promote innovative solutions to acidification.”

Contact all your elected officials. They need to hear long and loud how much we need this dealt with. Here is a list of US and statewide officials, and here is a Find Your Legislator page for Washington State legislators. Here are King County’s officials and lastly, here are Shoreline’s
and Lake Forest Park’s.  

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