The largest coal company in the world, Peabody Energy, is hoping to build an export terminal north of Bellingham, Washington, so that they can export massive amounts of coal from Wyoming and Montana to countries like China and India.
The proposed Cherry Point terminal would export approximately 48 million tons of coal per year, which would make it the largest coal export facility in North America. There are an additional four terminals being proposed in Washington and Oregon which would equate to between 126-166 million tons of coal being transported and exported each year. The coal would be transported by open rail cars from the Powder River Basin. These coal trains have serious implications for the environment and the public health of northwestern communities like Sandpoint.
Today, Shannon Williamson, Director of the Lake Pend O’reille Waterkeeper, spoke at KEA’s Lunch & Learn to raise awareness about the probable effects that the community of Sandpoint would see if this export terminal is approved.
The rail route hugs ~ 30 miles of Lake Pend Oreille’s shoreline before traveling directly over the water by bridge. Currently, Sandpoint sees ~ 50 trains per day. The proposed terminals would more than double train traffic, meaning that Sandpoint would see one train about every 12 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Note that these trains are each ~1.5miles long with ~100 uncovered cars requiring 4-5 diesel engines each.
Burlington Northern Railroad (BNSF) calculated that coal trains lose up to 500 lbs of coal in the form of dust per car en route from mine to port. The coal dust will yield impaired water quality through the leaching of toxic heavy metals. Coal contains heavy metals: aluminum, antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, calcium, chromium, cobalt, iron, lead, magnesium, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, potassium, selenium, silver, sodium, strontium, tin vanadium and zinc.
Another concern would be the possibility of derailments; which Sandpoint has seen two of in the past year. A derailment over Lake Pend Oreille would poison a major supply of drinking water for the community and would have serious ecological implications.
Agencies are currently collecting public comments in their preparation of the Environmental Impact Statements for the Gateway Pacific Terminal in Bellingham, Washington through January 21, 2013. Please consider: