Legislators call for emergency task force to identify statewide impacts of coal export proposal

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State Representatives Jeff Morris (D-Mount Vernon) and Kris Lytton (D-Anacortes) are calling on Gov. Chris Gregoire to establish a multi-agency task force to identify the statewide economic, transportation, and environmental impact of a proposed coal terminal near Bellingham.

Under federal law the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is lead agency to conduct an area-wide review of proposals to build five coal terminals exporting 150 million tons of coal per year from Washington and Oregon to Asia. The first plan, Cherry Point outside Bellingham, would result in an estimated 48 million tons of coal being transported each year with trains operating daily.

Each shipment requires a minimum of 18 trains (9 full and 9 empty), 1.5 miles long or 150 uncovered cars. The coal-laden trains would run from Spokane along the Columbia River to Vancouver and then north through the economic, residential, and business heart of Puget Sound including downtown Seattle.

The fast-approaching deadline to comment on the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement is January 21, 2013. Morris, Lytton and other lawmakers are calling upon state agencies to coordinate a cumulative list of issues, concerns and impact topics with the state Department of Ecology, a co-lead with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Whatcom County on the project.

“The size and scope of the terminal impacts communities across Washington and it certainly merits an accurate assessment of what a coal terminal would mean for our infrastructure, economic development, and environment” said Morris. “Considering our commitment towards value-added jobs and environmental protection, this project doesn’t appear to make a whole lot of sense.”

“The state has a responsibility to do a rigorous analysis that examines how the new terminal will impact our economy, environment, and transportation infrastructure,” said Lytton, Morris’ 40th-district seatmate in the state House. “The only way we’ll get the full picture—accurately and objectively—is if the departments of Ecology, Transportation, and Commerce aggressively collaborate and share their data with the lead agencies conducting the formal analysis.”

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