Letter to the Editor: Require due diligence for coal terminals/trains

By Dennis Lowenthal | May 10, 2012


Mr. Steven Keeler’s letter “The Green Fiascos” 26 April 2012, downplays some of the risks associated with huge coal terminals, but presents no evidence that the risks are not real.

Just because he cannot see the dust, and 2.5 micron sized diesel exhaust-definitely invisible, does not mean that it is not present in quantities that cause damage to health.

His questions “where is the ruined environment?” and “What mess needs to be cleaned up along the existing train tracks?” refuse to consider the addition of massive coal terminals and a minimum of 12 coal trains through Edmonds daily.

With this kind of expansion we must be sure that we do not enable irrevocable health, and economic problems.

Here are just a few of the health hazards:

Dangers of coal dust include exposure to toxic heavy metals such as lead, selenium and mercury. Coal dust leads to increased asthma, wheezing and coughing in children.

Toxic pollution from diesel exhaust is linked to stunted lung development, increased probability of heart attacks, lung cancer, worsening asthma and infant mortality.

A comprehensive 2001 study of coal dust emissions in Canada found that the Westshore Terminal near Tsawassen B.C. emits roughly 715 metric tons of coal dust a year. The report states that “coal terminals by their nature are active sources of fugitive dust.” According to the rail operator, BNSF, every coal car can

loose as much as 500 pounds of coal dust en route.

The Environmental Impact Study quantifies the health, economic and  other risks so we know what we get when the coal terminals are constructed and operated.  That is just due diligence and prudent behavior.

Mr. Keeler attacks those of us who want to understand the risks by labeling us “eco-fascits”.

This is hateful language that divides our community based on dishonest labeling that should be shunned by our citizens and nation.

The real problem to honest disclosure are the coal, and construction companies who provide us with deliberately misleading information about their real intentions simply to get their way, and steam roll over the state government and public.

The initial permit application for a coal terminal in Longview, submitted by Millennium Bulk Industries, said it was to handle five million tons of coal per year, but a Sierra Club legal suit revealed the real intension was for a terminal to transfer 60 million tons per year.

The author of “The Green Fiascos” should reconsider applying his hate language, to the coal companies who are on record for hiding the truth to get what they want without any oversight – this seems like a correct use of his language.

No one expects to turn off coal immediately, coal will be with us for many years, but it is dirty energy and will eventually be replaced, we must face the fact that cleaner energy is the future, and we must prepare now.

We must turn away from the stone age mentality that says we must behave like a third world country in Africa that can only sell off its cheep “rocks” to make ends meet.  Our American ideals and manufacturing capability is way beyond that! The future is with forward-looking governments and citizens.


Dennis Lowenthal

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