WASHINGTON and Oregon are in the middle of an intense debate about whether to expand facilities to ship coal to Asia.
As a former resident of Washington state and one who has family that lives in the area, I have followed this issue with interest. As a scientist who spent my career in toxicology evaluating human health risks, what I am seeing in this debate concerns me.
What I find most troublesome is how anecdotal evidence and opinions of a handful of people, rather than scientific evidence, are being used in an attempt to sway the public on the export terminals.
Across the country, exports and infrastructure spending are big issues as of late. Our own Gov. Inslee rightly emphasized during his campaign that investing in transportation infrastructure creates needed construction jobs today, lays the foundation for job growth tomorrow and keeps our economy competitive globally, by promoting exports of U.S. products. President Obama’s campaign likewise committed to grow infrastructure spending and double exports by 2015.
Those are smart policies that enjoy bipartisan support. According to the Federal Reserve, for every dollar invested in infrastructure, like highways, the economy sees two dollars in growth. And last year’s record trade numbers showed Washington’s economy is getting back on track thanks to exports.
Montana exports had a record year in 2012, led by grain. Montana exported over $2.48 billion in high-value grain last year. We’re producing products and commodities that the world wants, and all our communities benefit from the resulting jobs, economic growth, and tax revenue.
But to continue to thrive in the highly competitive global marketplace, Montana’s agriculture producers need to be able to access the emerging markets where new demand is expanding. We produce some of the most outstanding agricultural products in the world, but if we can’t get those products to the markets that want them, someone else will fill that demand.
Recently environmentalists have been claiming that coal dust poses an environmental risk to the region because coal transits the Northwest by rail. But there is no credible study to support this assertion, and I wonder what the true motivation for making such a claim might be.
I have worked in the Northwest rail industry for the better part of two decades, as both locomotive engineer and conductor, and I regularly speak with other rail workers operating all types of trains across Washington state. Coal trains have transited through the Northwest for decades and have done so without significant complaint or concerns. Despite allegations of coal dust blowing from trains, I have not witnessed it nor have I received any reports of it from our rail union members.
The Franklin County Farm Bureau has joined other Tri-City business leaders in asking Gov. Jay Inslee to be careful what he asks for in regulating coal exports.
The governor has asked the White House Council on Environmental Quality that greenhouse gas emissions be considered when evaluating export proposals and facilities.
“Simply put, this is an unprecedented overreach of the environmental review process that would, without question, jeopardize future investment for projects in the Northwest, and will contribute to the rising costs of shipping our goods for export,” said Stacy Gilmore, president of the Franklin County Farm Bureau, in a news release.
Tri-City business leaders are urging Gov. Jay Inslee to be careful what he asks for in regulating coal exports.
Steve Cooper of the Washington State Farm Bureau, Jared Balcom of Balcom & Moe and Bill Lampson of Lampson International want Inslee to avoid any action they feel could harm U.S. exporters’ ability to compete against international companies.
In a letter to Inslee, the men take issue with the governor’s request to the White House Council on Environmental Quality that greenhouse gas emissions be considered when it evaluates export proposals and facilities.
We take great pride in our communities. As local elected officials in Whatcom County, we have found that whether Republican or Democrat, progressive or conservative, debate in our area has traditionally been respectful. In that spirit, we want to share our personal thoughts with you on an issue.
Civic harmony was occasionally lacking last year in the debate over the proposed new export terminal in the heavy industrial port area at Cherry Point. Public meetings over the project sometimes featured sharp exchanges between supporters and opponents. Those meetings are behind us now, however, and we would like to take this opportunity to clear the air, and call for a less inflammatory debate around the project.
Below is the response from Burlington Norther Santa Fe (BNSF) regarding the pending suit alleging Clean Water Act violations:
BNSF is committed to preventing coal dust from escaping while in transit. If the parties holding the press conference today are truly interested in controlling coal dust, and not simply political grandstanding, there is a forum where they can help. We would encourage them to join BNSF in defending its rule, and can send letters supporting the necessity of controlling dust to the Surface Transportation Board and urging the Board to act quickly to confirm BNSF’s rule. Several utilities filed a proceeding at the STB calling the BNSF coal dust rule an unreasonable practice and the case is still pending today.
BELLEVUE – The co-lead agencies reviewing a proposal for a bulk-cargo shipping terminal and rail spur improvements at Cherry Point have posted online a report summarizing and categorizing comments received during a recent public comment period.
The public provided approximately 125,000 comments on the scope of an upcoming environmental impact statement (EIS) during the 121-day comment period, which ran from Sept. 24, 2012, to Jan. 22, 2013.
The official website, www.eisgatewaypacificwa.gov, provides additional details about the scoping process, project proposals, and displays comments received.
SEATTLE, Wash. – Labor and business leaders responded forcefully to the call from Governors of Oregon and Washington for expanded federal review in the approval of coal export projects in the Northwest. They reiterated strong support for the proposed bulk export terminals and expressed concern over the precedent that expanded regulation would have on future exports from the Northwest.
The governors wrote a joint letter to the Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ) urging that it undertake a thorough review of greenhouse gas emissions and other air quality impacts prior to any final decisions on coal export projects. Three proposed projects are currently undergoing rigorous government environmental impact assessments in the Northwest. If approved, these port projects would expand trade and exports to Asia and the rest of the world, contributing to the regional economy in addition to creating thousands of good family-wage jobs at these facilities.
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