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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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. The City of Seattle will request that the railroad mitigate any public safety hazards created by the transport of coal through Seattle.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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



Politicians urging cover-up - who knew..


Those same politicians will be the first ones demanding fuel during a shortage.


Shortage of coal?? Not likely to affect people in the Northwest - they got hydro. This is a reasonable Resolution to discourage transport within city limits of an outdated, old school fossil fuel. Good for Seattle.

Henry Gibson

This is a violation of the US constitution. It is interference with interstate and foreign commerce. It is operating under the false belief that Coal puts more CO2 into the air than oil. They must forbid the sale of gasoline and diesel to be fair to all states and purveyors of energy and also forbid the use of the port facilities to import oil of any origin. It must also hinder and prohibit the import of any product from China which is constantly expanding its use of coal fired generators and other processes as well as making more and more chemicals and plastics from coal. They should also prohibit imports from Japan for their continued failure to use their almost Zero CO2 power plants in violation of their Kyoto agreements.

The US government built and operates hydro power plants on the Columbia river. For this violation of the Constitution no hydro-power from US government facilities should be sold to areas under the control of these governments. The US government can build the necessary Direct Current transmission facilities to transmit power to Nevada and other states to reduce the burning of coal in other states and reduce the price of power for the US citizens there. These governments can then require the installation of natural gas fired power plants, all of them with co-generation facilities to ensure the lowest CO2 release consistent with the beliefs of their low CO2 cult. These people should also forbid any new industries or any population increase or any automobile sales beyond replacement with more efficient models.

The sale of fuel ethanol in these areas must also be prohibited. If permanent trees are grown on lands now used for ethanol production and fossil oil used instead, The net CO2 release is cut by one half or more due to large losses of organic energy in the waste materials even with only 100 units of fossil energy input for 123 units of ethanol energy output as per US figures.

The demands of the increasingly avarice population for more energy and products is what has led to increased CO2 releases not the sellers of energy.

Since organisms convert organic materials washed into the dams into methane and CO2, hydro-power is not always or even some-times low Global warming electricity. These people should now require the construction of Nuclear Power Plants for their power source and operation of their automobiles. The CO2 releases of nuclear power plants can be measured as well as that of building and operation the units.

Canada makes the very safe CANDU reactors which have been built on time and under budget in China and elsewhere. Dams have and will kill more people than nuclear electricity. China can and is experimenting with using used fuel from light water reactors in these units to get part of the 99 percent remaining energy from the originally mined uranium.

Seattle once had high pressure water pipes for operating machinery for different businesses as did London England. Seattle can now install a buried nuclear power plant to supply district heating and call it geothermal power; if it wants to be truly and, not just apparently low CO2. How many electric car purchases are required by these people? ..HG..


You got the politics wrong Henry. Cities pass odd ordances all the time. e.g. Did you know it is illegal to wear high heels in Carmel California?? No?? Sounds unconstitutional to me. But hey, it's just a city. If they want to ban officers of the law from enforcing crazy federal statutes - they can. They can also say it's fine to drive low speed EVs on their streets.

BTW, nuclear fission is pretty well dead in Japan and the West. FukUshima pretty much guaranteed that. Fortunately there is a new form of nuclear energy being developed by NASA:

Robert Evinger

the oceans are already 30% more acid due to increased loads of atmospheric co2. good for seattle for making this small advancement.

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