Seattle mayor calls for coal train study

AS DEBATES continue between supporters and opponents regarding planned export growth in the Seattle region that will increase coal train traffic, Mayor Mike McGinn says he will commission a study to look at the economic impact of the operations.
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Donna Schmidt

McGinn said the study would focus on the effect of 18 coal trains that would pass through the city daily as part of the proposed plan and the Port of Seattle would be examined along with the Duwamish industrial and north waterfront districts.

“Seattle’s economy is growing at a faster pace than the rest of the region, state and country,” he said.

“As the entire city works together to recover from the longest, deepest recession since the Great Depression, we need to do our due diligence to analyze the negative impacts to our local economy should this coal train proposal become a reality.”

The mayor said an initial review of local traffic and safety impacts as it tied into the plan had already been completed.

“Now we need to work to make sure that we are protecting our local economy,” he said.

“The impacts from these coal trains will be felt at the local level. That is why we need a comprehensive environmental impact statement to help inform policy makers on this proposal.”

Points to be tackled in the impact analysis include operations and employment for the Port of Seattle; operations, employment and sales for businesses along the proposed coal train route; and the evaluation of the displacement of higher value goods being shipped by rail.

It will also determine if additional infrastructure improvements or policy measures are needed to support the operations of coal trains or mitigate their impact.

Seattle’s Office of Economic Development is aiming to inform the general public as well as Seattle policymakers and interested stakeholders about the potential range and magnitude the proposed coal terminal and operations could bring.

The evaluation is scheduled to be completed by March 30.

In the meantime, battle lines are being drawn in a series of public hearings on terminal plans for the Gateway Pacific Project.

Supporters at a gathering in Vancouver this week pitted supporters – who feel a growth in coal exports will bring jobs and a boost to the economy – against those voicing concerns over the length of the trains, potential dust levels and the environmental risk of the proposal.

Hundreds were in attendance at the meeting and upwards of 1000 were expected at the seventh and final meeting in Seattle.

SSA Marine’s $600 million terminal proposal is the largest of five proposed terminals in Washington and Oregon.

It is being developed to ship coal from Montana and Wyoming to Asian power generation facilities.

The public comment period for Gateway is still open and the deadline for input is January 21.

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