John Locatelli's blog on China reminded me that coal is in the news--specifically, coal on its way to China from Washington shores. Or not. Whether this should happen has been the subject of hearings in our state and a decision is due soon. An even bigger issue might be the global effect of millions of tons of coal being burned in China, which could/should be a separate discussion. Dexter's recent blog reminded me that some people don't believe global warming is real, or that we have a role in contributing to it. So let's set that issue aside for now, and just consider coal in our state.
Coal is a big part of our local history, with old mines not far from Enumclaw, and neighboring coal communities having contributed to our town's development. In a very different way, coal is part of my own history. The coal man came every week through the housing project where I lived as a little girl and dumped coal into the bins in front of our units. Some bins had lids, others were open and had just three sides. The latter, to the minds of preschoolers, were like little 3-sided houses, and my friends and I played in them. Our moms were probably exasperated when we came in with blackened hands, faces, shoes, clothes, but I don't think anybody worried about the coal dust at that time. Coal in a bucket sat by the stove in the living room the winter of 1949-50, and I'm certainly glad we had it to keep us warm. (Does anybody remember the several feet of snow in Seattle that January?!) At my grandma's house in Utah, the bucket, or just big chunks of coal, sat by the kitchen stove, and coal kept the stovetop hot for morning mush and coffee and the oven hot for bread and raisin cake later in the day. That's how it was. We burned coal for our daily needs because that was what we had.
That-was-then-this-is-now. Over the years, our family has used other energy sources for heat and cooking: wood, oil, hydro-electric, natural gas, and recently, solar. Coal still figures in our daily use, since 30 percent of PSE's electricity comes from coal. But natural gas is replacing coal in many areas as fracking makes the gas cheaper to access. The good news is, natural gas is definitely cleaner (the bad news is, well, fracking....another story). And as we use less and less coal in our own country, coal companies are looking to China.
In December advocates and protesters spoke up at hearings held to determine whether or not to have coal ports on our shores for the trainloads coming from Montana and Wyoming. Public comment is still being taken through January 21, so you might want to look at some of the questions that have come up, get the facts, and then voice your opinion. Questions such as....
What will be the cost to Washington taxpayers?
How many jobs would be added in our state?
Would any jobs be lost or any businesses be adversely affected?
What has been the experience of other towns/states?
How many trains are we talking about?
Where would street traffic be affected?
How would current rail traffic be affected?
In what ways would property values be affected?
Would there be significant impact on human health from coal dust?
Will fish and seafood in our waterways and the sound be safe?
My own view is that these questions should be seriously considered and satisfactorily answered before we invest a lot of tax-payer money and commit our citizens to a situation that would be difficult to undo once unforeseen (or foreseen) problems surfaced. As you look into it, whatever your conclusions, you can give input online at
or mail a statement to
GPT/BNSF Custer Spur EIS Co-Lead Agencies
c/o CH2M Hill
1100 112th Ave NE, Suite 400
Bellevue, WA 98004