Seattle City Council passes resolution opposing transportation of coal through Seattle for export, measures for mitigating impact
The Seattle City Council unanimously passed Resolution 31379 stating Seattle’s opposition to the transportation of coal through Seattle. In addition to emphasizing the negative impacts on the climate, the resolution outlines measures the City will take to mitigate the regional impacts from the significant increase in coal trains that would run through Seattle.
There are currently four coal exports under permit review in the Northwest that collectively could increase US coal exports by 150 million tons of coal annually. Coal transported to the proposed Gateway Terminal at Cherry Point in Bellingham, WA could increase coal train traffic in Seattle from the current average of one to nine coal trains daily.
Specifically, Resolution 31379 stipulates that:
The City of Seattle opposes the establishment of coal export terminals in Washington State and supports economic growth that does not jeopardize Washington State’s commitment to fight the serious impacts of climate change.
The City of Seattle intends to address any impacts to public health, safety, property, and surface and groundwater caused by the transport of coal through Seattle by actively enforcing generally applicable local public health, safety, building, electrical, nuisance, and fire codes and by actively enforcing applicable federal environmental statutes delegated to The City of Seattle.
The City of Seattle will request that the railroad make public any plans for new or expanded rail facilities or significant rail traffic volume increases within Seattle city limits.
The City of Seattle will request that the railroad provide representatives to meet periodically with local citizen groups and local government officials from Seattle to seek mutually acceptable ways to address local concerns.
The City of Seattle will request that the railroad mitigate any public safety hazards created by the transport of coal through Seattle.
The City of Seattle will request that the railroad monitor the loading of coal at the mines and at any transfer points as part of the contract(s) with the coal companies to assure best loading practices and to reduce the amount of coal and coal dust coming out of rail cars in route.
For any coal loading facilities located within Seattle, The City of Seattle will: a) require all locally applicable permits and approvals be obtained for the operation of such a facility; b) fully enforce public nuisance and municipal land use restrictions; c) require any piles of coal stored on the property to be fully covered, and d) require that the facility use a covered loading process to reduce health and safety impacts.
The City of Seattle will request that the railroad draft road improvement plans for intersections that would be impacted by rail traffic increases, and require the railroad to cover the cost of those upgrades as part of the mitigation for increase in rail traffic.
With this resolution, the City of Seattle has become the seventh city in Washington to officially voice its concerns about the proposed expansion of coal exports, including Bainbridge Island, Camas, Edmonds, Marysville, Stevenson and Washougal.
Earlier this month, the City joined jurisdictions and elected officials throughout the region calling for a programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that would study the collective impacts of the four proposed terminals in the Northwest. The site-specific EIS is expected to begin on the proposed terminal at Cherry Point this summer.
Seattle could be the cleanest, greenest city in the world and we will be failing in our efforts to prevent climate change if we don’t speak out against efforts like this to ship tens of millions of tons of coal to China and India.
We have serious concerns about what a nine-fold increase in uncovered coal trains through Seattle would have on local health and traffic. For people who live near the rail line, we are concerned about increased exposure to harmful coal dust from the tops of these uncovered coal trains. An increase in coal train traffic through Seattle could also adversely impact traffic and freight mobility. The resolution asks the railroads to work with the City to mitigate any negative health and traffic impacts.—Council member Mike O’Brien, chair of the Energy and Environment Committee and prime sponsor of the resolution