The Power Past Coal coalition held the 31st Coal Hard Truth Forum last night hosted at Our Redeemers Lutheran Church in north Ballard. The event was once again well attended by concerned residents of Crown Hill, North Beach/Blue Ridge, Sunset Hill, Whittier Heights and the greater Ballard area, there to learn about the potential impacts of mile and a half long coal trains coming through and impacting their neighborhoods, businesses, health and quality of life, should the proposed coal port be built north of Bellingham. The night before a Forum was held at the Queen Anne Community Center.
Earlier reports from the Coal Hard Truth Forums held in Magnolia and Ballard contain information that was again shared with these citizens. Speakers at this event included Robin Everett of the Sierra Club, Joelle Robinson, Northwest Field Director of the Power Past Coal Campaign and of Climate Solutions, Jessie Dye from Earth Ministries, and Mary Margaret Thomas representing the Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility (WPSR).
Robin Everett provided the latest information on the EIS process, indicating that the 120 day comment period for scoping still has not begun and now guesses that it may be opened in August or September. The Scoping Report (a new step added due to the intense public interest) will be made public in the Winter of 2012 and the draft EIS in possibly the Spring or Summer of 2013, with the Final EIS targeted for some time in 2014. There will be many opportunities for the public to comment on what they would like to have addressed in the EIS through the scoping hearings, which are hoped to be held widely in the Region. There is still a need to push the Corps of Engineers to have a cumulative assessment of impacts from all the potential ports for coal export, rather than only the local impacts at each port alone. Please go to the Power Past Coal website to voice your position on this, if you have not already.
The potential health impacts from coal transport and combustion was covered in detail by Mary Margaret Thomas of WPSR. These impacts include the noise, derailment, climate change and a variety of others. Jessie Dye from Earth Ministries invited a retired UW scientist who further emphasized the risks from increased and ongoing coal based energy. She also spoke to the economic costs from exporting coal through the Northwest, which include the loss of business associated with tourism, the property value decline near the railroad lines, the loss of life and damage from derailments, and the infrastructure costs of building the needed overpasses and rail crossing required by the increased traffic.
Jessie spoke to the topic of Hope which many lose sight of with the enormous pressures from industry to continue the use of coal. She also pointed out that five years ago she would not have expected to be seeing the number of coal-fired power plants in the US to be declining and the reliance on coal diminishing. The one thing we can do to help those who wish to profit and promote coal use is to lose hope, so…don’t do it! She would like to meet with us in five years to look back over how much has been accomplished by our efforts.
Joelle Robinson, Field Director for the Power Past Coal coalition reviewed the accomplishments thus far in standing up to those who wish to export coal through the Northwest to Asia. There have been more than 40,000 signatures on the petition to Wash Land Commissioner Goldmark to not approve the use of Washington tidelands for this purpose. One hundred organizations have signed on against the coal exports. That evening the city of Tacoma was meeting to vote on whether to oppose the coal train traffic that would go through their community, like Seattle and many other communities along the line have. She urged those who wished to help more to come to the Monthly Coal Free NW meeting at the Sierra Club on the Third Thursday of each month at 6:00 pm and to pick up a handout on other ways they can support this community driven effort.