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View Diary: Professor compares exporting coal to exporting firewood ~ Big Coal launches astroturf ad blitz in NW (29 comments)

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  •  It's all for export. (12+ / 0-)

    The Centralia power plant closed a few years ago. What you're seeing is all going up to the Roberts Bank coal port just across from Point Roberts.

    Born and raised Bellinghamster here, and my folks still live just next to the tracks on the west side of town, and they certainly don't want the trains. Not too many of the neighbors want the coal port either, needless to say.

    As for the jobs claim, what jobs? Automated coal terminals don't employ many people once they are built. Last estimate for the Cherry Point proposal was a grand total of somewhere in the area of 80 jobs in total. That includes administrative staff, maintenance staff, and operating personnel. Not too many people to actually operate such a facility 24/7: each shift would have something like 10-12 people.

    It's the same as all the projects put forth for Cherry Point since the 60's: smoke and mirrors, with no true long-term benefits or jobs.

    •  I wish you were right about Centralia, but... (8+ / 0-)

      ...it closes one boiler in 2020, and the second in 2025.  The deal was done last year.  

      You're right the jobs part is a smoke-screen.  If people realized how few long-term jobs we're talking about, maybe they wouldn't be so gung-ho.  I guess that's part of our job.

      "Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person." David Korten, When Corporations Rule the World

      by Delta Overdue on Fri Jul 27, 2012 at 08:04:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wow, I stand corrected... (6+ / 0-)

        I understood a couple of years ago that Centralia was closed already, so if it's still going the situation must have changed. Yuck to it's continuation.

        My parents have upwards of 3 coal trains a day going north, although it is somewhat variable over the course of a typical week. They have a turnaround time of roughly 24 hours before they go past the house going south. Those trains are in addition to the 'regular' freights that number about 4 total round trips, 2 Amtrak round trips, and some local, short trains. The Bellingham Subdivision (which is Everett to New Westminster, B.C.) has turned into one of BNSF's busiest border crossings over the last several years and is close to capacity right now. Add 9 more coal train round trips, and one "problem" turns into a big mess. BNSF is trying hard to expand capacity but they are restricted by geography and a lot of hostile landowners. It would cost them billions to do it right, so they are between a rock and a hard place.

        I know that SSA tried to hide the total number of permanent jobs deep in it's EIS, but the cat got out of the bag early on that one. They claim that 1100 jobs would be created just to build it, but that turned out to be somewhat bogus, as not all 1100 would be at one time, instead being spread out over the building period. It also seems to be the case that most of the workers wouldn't be local either, as most of the skills aren't found in Whatcom County. More poo.

        Unfortunately, I think the proposed terminal at Longview is probably the most likely to come to fruition. Easy run down the Gorge, unload, and head back east to Wyoming. Shortest route to deep water, rail traffic is not too heavy most of the way, fewer hills: what's not to like?

        •  Comments in the Longview paper were mostly in... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ozsea1, Creosote, Nulwee

          ...support, as I recall.  They fall for the jobs argument, as the economy there is somewhat distressed.

          Here's a pretty thorough summary of the Longview proposal.  

          I haven't counted the trains that go by, but it's easily in the dozens most days.  Being between Seattle and Portland, there are ten Amtrak trains a day alone.  They're pretty light (quiet), plus have the highest speed limits (quick).  Someday there will be an elevated  crossing where I live, so the horns will at least go away.  At one block, I'm far enough away that the trains don't bother me much, and if the horns were eliminated impact would be minimal.  

          That said, I sure don't want to see additional rail traffic from coal.  In my ideal world we'd be investing in new technologies moving us away from carbon-based energy sources, and Smart Grid implementation.

          "Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person." David Korten, When Corporations Rule the World

          by Delta Overdue on Fri Jul 27, 2012 at 10:17:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  What's not to like? (4+ / 0-)

          Suspect you're speaking ironically, but each 1.5 mile long coal train offgases some 500 pounds of coal dust each trip. Not exactly what one wants to add to a river where people hope to keep salmon from going extinct.

          Maybe it is city prejudice, but my impression is that Longview area officials could be a lot more vulnerable to big influxes of persuasive cash since that whole southwest Washington region, following the end of the big timber business era, has been struggling hard.

          The health and safety aspects are huge, and would be unavoidably cumulative, particularly in working-class areas.

    •  At a Power Past Coal presentation (3+ / 0-)

      here in Seattle about a month ago, one of the speakers presented some strong statistics countering the "all those jobs" argument the pro-coal people talk about.

      He noted that while coal could bring Bellingham about 250 jobs, Bellingham also has a formerly industrial harbor area up for residential redevelopment that could create more than 5,000 ongoing jobs.

      Here's an excellent anti-coal shipment site with information on fighting pro-coal efforts in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

      Note that the BNSF lines west of Spokane are already at 65-75 % of capacity; how do you add thirty mile-and-a-half-long coal trains per day to that?

      I can walk a block east to a bridge over the main lines running north to Bellingham and see clearly that BNSF only has two main sets of rails running north-south; they are in a trench, so there is no room to add more. And if there were, then the 1900s rail-bridge from the Magnolia neighborhood to Ballard (basically across the Ship Canal) would be a formidable bottleneck.

      Moreover, as they do in many places from Vancouver, BC, to Bellingham to Coos Bay, those lines run close along the shore, and especially in winter are regularly closed by landslides - or, in the Centralia area, serious flooding.

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