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The fiasco of massive coal export is fast approaching the shores of our Pacific Northwest.  Hadn't heard?  These climate-busting, community destroying schemes will benefit billionaires somewhere, while the rest of us inherit the consequences.

Today, no narrative, and not even pix, just a catalog to peruse.

UPDATE May 26, 2012.  Notes moved below the list, some items added.

If a table is just too crushing for you , a great research paper on the entire issue is in this paper by Sightline's Eric De Place.  Really - if you have any interest at all in this topic, don't miss this one!

Without further ado, here it is:

Health and Safety
Topic Definition
Blocked Emergency Response Emergency vehicles, or vehicles taking personnel to hospitals to respond to an emergency, will be delayed at train crossings, at a time when seconds count.
Coal dust from terminals blown to homes and other land locations During wind events, coal dust will be blown from coal piles to locations up to 5 miles away, as has been observed at the Point Roberts terminal, and it will be inhaled.
Crossing Hazard Over the operating lifetime of the terminal, some number of people will be killed by collisions with coal trains
Derailments Coal trains may derail.  Derailments can be caused by an accumulation of coal dust, and also by the accumulation of damage done to the rails by the huge coal trains.
Diesel PM Emissions Diesel particulate matter (DPM) that is less than 2.5 microns in size, the most dangerous size, is emitted by the coal trains.  These particles go deep into the lungs of people who breathe the fumes and cause serious health effects including cancer.
Fire Hazard at Refineries Coal Dust is highly combustible.  When it is blown from coal piles at the terminal on to nearby refineries, it could create a fire hazard or other hazardous conditions.
Inhalation of Coal Dust from Trains Coal dust from the trains will be inhaled by people.  Coal dust contains toxic metals, and has respiratory health effects.  
Mine health and safety Coal mining, including at surface strip mines, is an inherently hazardous activity that produces known rates of illness, injury, and death.
Nitrogen and Sulfur Oxide emissions from Coal Trains The coal trains will emit Nitrogen and Sulfur Oxides, which create acid rain and have direct health impacts.
Noise Noise from the coal trains will interfere with sleep.  This impairs cognitive development in children, and has other impacts in people of all ages.
Ship emissions Ships approaching and leaving the terminal will emit air pollutants, including sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbon PM, and carbon monoxide.  These pollutants can have serious health effects.
Spontaneous Combustion Powder River basin coal is well known for its tendency to spontaneously combust, causing health and safety as well as environmental problems.
Toxic metals in soil due to coal dust The toxic metals in coal, such as arsenic, can accumulate in soils near the coal trains, resulting in exposure to people and to the environment.
Economic and Quality of Life
Topic Definition
Blocked Crossings Frequently blocked crossings may reduce the ability of businesses to attract traffic and to deliver goods to their destinations
Blocked Waterfront Development A large volume of coal trains going through downtown Bellingham will cut off the waterfront from the rest of town, impairing planned development.
Boat Collision Hazard An increased volume of large ships in the Puget Sound will increase the chances of collisions between large ships or between large ships and small boats.
Capital lock-in for big carbon infrastructure Once a large capital investment is made in a facility, this tends to cause continued use of that facility under circumstances when operating it would not otherwise make sense.  The terminal will likely lead to the construction of additional coal burners in Asia, and those coal burners will then operate for 50+ years, with serious environmental and climate effects.
Coal Resource Depletion Even though we need to reduce our use of coal in the short term, it is still an important resource that we will need for centuries.  On some future day we will be pretty bummed that we sent it all to China.
Cost of rail crossing improvements Local communities are generally required to pay for at least 90% of the costs of rail crossing improvements that are needed to deal with the increased train traffic.
Damage to fishing The full set of marine impacts will lead to even further reduced capacity for fishing.
Damage to train tracks Coal trains damage the tracks, increasing maintenance costs and impairing rail safety
Diminished educational experience and performance Noise pollution interferes with communication in the classroom, and can interfere with performance of tasks.  Additionally, classes and programs that include field work near the train tracks or the terminal could be disrupted by decreased access, safety, quality of site of study, and quality of experience for students.
Division of communities A large increase in coal trains will have the effect of splitting communities at the rail line, to a greater extent than any current effects, by impeding free flow of people and traffic for personal and business reasons.
Further Growth of Gigantic Businesses rather than human-scale activity The proposed project is an expansion by some of the largest companies in the world.  It would be better to start activities that help small and local business to grow and create a healthy economy
Giving Away Competitive Advantage The purpose of the coal in China is to further increase their manufacturing capacity, at a time when so much of American industry has been outsourced.
Giving away US-owned resources for a pittance The coal is owned by the US Government, but is provided to the coal companies for less than $1 a ton, a fraction of its actual value.
Illusion of Growth Certain activity can show up in the GDP and even in paychecks for a little while, creating an illusion of prosperity but not contributing to healthy economic security.  Any economic evaluation must evaluate the underlying true value of the activity rather than just the amount of activity.
Impacts on Current Businesses Existing businesses will be impacted by various types of pollution or other problems.
Impaired Development of High Speed Rail If the existing lines receive a large increase in rail traffic, then it will not be possible to deploy high speed rail
Increased commute times Coal trains will cause backups at crossings, increasing commute times and make surface travel schedules less reliable.
Issues related to population of transient construction workers When a large construction population arrives from out of town, this is often accompanied by an increase in various social issues, and much of the “new business” is directed to sectors of the economy that are not really the ones you want in your community.
Job Decay A facility that does a fixed operation will typically shed jobs at 2-3% per year, meaning that one third of all jobs would be gone within 16 years.  This is in contrast with businesses that have potential to grow and add jobs as an integrated part of the community.
Landslides and Subsidence Vibration from the extremely heavy coal trains has the potential to trigger landslides or land subsidence, especially when the ground is saturated.
Loss of Ranch Land An increased quantity of land that was previously used for ranching will be destroyed by the strip mines.
Loss of Rural Character Some areas will no longer be suitable for current or future potential uses that are based on land having a rural character.  This may include farming or tourism.
Loss of use of parks Parks that are near the tracks, such as Boulevard Park in Bellingham, will be substantially less usable with a greater increased occurrence of the coal trains, principally due to the crushing noise from the trains.
Lost Tourism Visitors spend hundreds of millions of dollars visiting the Puget Sound area, and some of this will be impacted by the coal port.
Misallocation of federal funds $800 million in federal High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail funds are being spent on rail lines which, if they are used for coal trains, will never be able to be used for high speed rail.
Misuse of capital A large capital investment for a big carbon project is necessarily an investment that does not occur for something else, such as clean energy development.
Non-reimbursed government expenses Governments at all levels will incur significant expenses related to permitting and administering the project, that are not covered by the applicant.  For instance, Whatcom County has spent thousands of dollars so far on activity even before permitting officially began.
Oil Imports The oil that is needed to fuel the trains will be mostly imported.  Some of our imported oil comes from friends like Saudi Arabia.
Permanent destruction of prime land The continued viability of coal export is subject to market changes, and there is good reason to believe that the export market will dry up in 5-10 years.  At that time, the ground of the terminal will be permanently impaired for any other potential use.
Pollution to farm lands Coal dust from coal trains and terminal operations will be deposited in adjacent farm land, impairing or destroying the ability of that land to be used to create healthy produce for people or animals to eat.
Pollution impacts on farm animals Livestock near the mines, tracks, and terminal operations will ingest pollutants.  These pollutants don’t go away – guess who ingests them next?
Poor use of prime land Bulk export facilities create one of the lowest densities of jobs per acre of any economic activity.  Pretty much any other proposed activity, covering the same acreage, would create more jobs, often as many as 10 times more jobs per acre.  Once a coal terminal is built, of course, the other uses can't occur.
Rail line congestion A vast increase in coal train traffic will interfere with existing train traffic including important passenger lines.  On a single track, passenger trains are typically required to pull into a siding to allow a coal train to go by.
Real Estate Values Properties near the tracks will decrease in value due to the coal trains
Recreational Boating A large increase in coal ship traffic will impact recreational boating in the Puget Sound by making it less safe and less enjoyable.
Reduction of in-migration Many people move to Whatcom County because it is an attractive place to live.  This could be reduced or even reversed.
Road Congestion When coal trains fully use all of the available rail lines, impairing the use of the same lines for growth in passenger service, more traffic will be diverted onto roads such as I-5.  There will also be increased road congestion during the construction period.
Shipping Lane Congestion The narrow and complex shipping lanes between Cherry Point and the open ocean already have substantial traffic.  Introducing more than 400 new very large ships per year will make existing problems with shipping lane congestion substantially worse.
Socialized costs, privatized gains The project will require or result in many tens of millions of dollars in public costs such as railroad infrastructure, but a majority of the total project revenue will accrue to multi-national companies and won’t even make it back to the United States.  Government money should be prioritized on projects where the gains go to the United States.
Stigma Nobody wants to live or work in, or visit, a coal town, for good reason.  The coal terminal and related traffic will damage the reputations of affected communities.
Structural damage to infrastructure Vibration from the coal trains will damage nearby buildings and other infrastructure such as roads and sewers, causing accumulated damage and potentially failure.
View Impairment Businesses and homes will lose valued views especially out toward the water, for a substantial percent of the time.

Topic Definition
Air Pollutants from ships in inland waters Coal ships emit large quantities of pollutants from burning bunker fuel, one of the dirtiest fuels anywhere.
Air Pollutants from ships, globally Emissions from the coal ships as they cross the Pacific Ocean will contribute to regional and global quantities of greenhouse gases, toxic air pollutants, acid rain pollutants, and particulate matter.
Coal dust in inland waterways Some of the coal dust that leaves the coal trains will enter the surface stream system, degrading water quality.
Coal dust in marine environment Coal dust will blow from coal piles and loading operations into the marine environment, with substantial environmental consequences.
Coal train impacts in China All of the effects we see from coal trains in the Unites will also occur in China.  In many cases the effects will be worse because of China's higher population density.
Diversion from Clean Energy Alternatives Both the United States and China have ambitious goals for the development of clean energy, but these goals will not be met if capital is instead spent on further expanding big carbon infrastructure.
Eel grass The Eel grass beds near Cherry Point, which are huge sources of habitat for much marine life, will be hammered by terminal operations including clearing, shade, coal dust, disturbance from ships, and other pollutants.
Encourage continued use of coal in China Cheap coal imports from the United States will encourage continued use of coal in China, increasing pollution and climate change problems.
Endangered Species near the coal mines Endangered Species including the Sage Grouse will be at increased risk due to the land destroyed by the strip mines.
Gateway for more degradation Once an area has some level of impacts, it becomes more acceptable to permit other polluting activities because the area is no longer pristine.
Greenhouse Gas emissions from coal burners When the coal is combusted in China, it will cause emissions of greenhouse gases especially Carbon Dioxide, contributing to global warming and ocean acidification
Greenhouse Gas emissions from mining and transport of the coal The trains, mining equipment, terminal equipment, and ships all emit greenhouse gases, most notably Carbon Dioxide, which contribute to global warming and ocean acidification.
Groundwater contamination in and near mines The strip mines generally reach groundwater.  Once this water is contacted by the mine, it can never again be used for a life-giving purpose.
Groundwater contamination at the terminal Water spray is used to try to mitigate coal dust and for fire suppression.  The resulting runoff is supposed to be captured and “managed” but the process is never perfect.  Groundwater under and near the terminal site will be contaminated over time and will become unusable for any life-giving purpose.
Harbor Porpoises Harbor porpoises were once the most numerous marine mammal in Puget Sound, but their numbers and range have declined due to shoreline development, disturbance, and entanglement.  Terminal operations at Cherry Point would further diminish their food supply and increase disturbance, putting this small population at risk.
Hazardous oxide pollutants from coal burners The coal burners will emit nitrogen and sulfur oxides, which cause acid rain and have other health effects.  These emissions will create severe health effects or death for thousands of people in China.
Herring Herring that live near Cherry point could be driven to extinction by terminal operations.  They are not technically an endangered species but probably should qualify.
Increased shade on marine environment The new terminal will cast certain areas into permanent shadow, killing the existing marine plants and animals.
Invasive species Invasive marine animals from Asian waters will come to the Puget Sound in the ballast water or on the outside hulls of the coal ships.  These invasive species create havoc in existing ecosystems and can result in extinctions.
Irresponsibility - Climate Change When coal is exported to China and then is combusted to result in Greenhouse Gas emissions, this also leads to increased emissions in the United States because polluters can point to a convenient scapegoat and use this as a basis for not reducing emissions here at home.
Marine Coal Dust from coal piles Dust flying off the coal piles or list during loading will land in the marine environment, with a variety of serious impacts to marine plants and animals.
Marine Impacts from Coal Unloading The same issues, such as the destruction of the marine environment, that we see with coal loading will also play out at the ports where coal is unloaded.
Marine Noise Large volumes of noise from coal ships will confuse and otherwise impact sea life, especially marine mammals.
Mercury from Coal Burners returning to North America Mercury pollution from the coal burners in China will travel across the Pacific Ocean to the United States, increasing mercury levels here.
Massive Increase in Coal Use in Asia One of the greatest environmental threats in the world is the huge increase in coal use and resulting pollution in Asia, especially China.  It is not a good choice to participate in making this even worse.
Ocean Acidification Carbon Dioxide emissions from various sources (coal burners, coal transport), will add to acidification of oceans, which destroys sea life and causes economic harm as well.
Oil Spills The increased traffic in the Salish Sea will increase the risk of a serious oil spill.  When this occurs, there will be severe environmental and economic damage.
Orcas The southern resident Orcas, which are endangered, could be driven to extinction by any one or more of an oil spill, impacts on their food supply, or other marine impacts.
Pollution from Coal Burners returning to US, causing ground level ozone Pollution from the coal burners in China will travel across the Pacific Ocean to the United States, making ground level ozone pollution worse and adding to the number of days when health standards are exceeded.
Salmon Chinook salmon will be impacted by a number of factors including harm to the herring that they eat.  The herring that spawn at Cherry Point have a different annual life cycle than other herring, so they are available to eat when other herring are not.
Ship Interference with marine mammals A large number of very large ships will make it more difficult for animals such as Orcas to hunt and otherwise move around in their range.
Terminal impacts in China For all of the concerns listed for terminal operations at Cherry Point, a similar set of problems will occur at the terminal(s) in China.
Water Pollutants from ships Ships in international waters are not effectively regulated, and these ships discharge pollutant directly to the ocean waters that they travel through.
Water Pollution in China Coal handling and coal (ash) waste causes huge water pollution problems, which will occur in China at the sites of the coal burners.
Wetlands The project includes the destruction of significant wetlands.  These wetlands are critical habitats and sources of biodiversity.
Legal, Process, and Rights
Topic Definition
Accumulation with other terminals Other coal terminals are being proposed.  Any assessment of impacts should consider the accumulative effects of all of the terminals.
Applicants attempts to bypass reviews that are required by federal law The applicant attempted to repurpose an ancient and smaller existing non-coal permit for the enormous proposed coal terminal.  This attempt to bypass federal law does not inspire confidence that the applicant will comply in good faith with all applicable laws.
Assumption that a polluting project is allowed unless explicitly prohibited Current permitting processes often follow a script where a new activity will be permitted unless serious egregious problems can be proven.  A better process would be for the applicant to demonstrate that the project creates net benefit for the community.
Clean Water Act violations by applicants The applicants violated the Clean Water Act by engaging in illegal clearing of federally protected wetlands.  Under the law, this should result in a minimum of a 6 year development moratorium.
Conflict of Interest Some of the people involved directly or indirectly in the permitting process have interests in the corporations that will profit from the terminal.
Damage to Native American cultural resources The site of the proposed terminal has a substantial likelihood of containing currently unknown native American cultural sites including burials.
Deception about “multi-commodity terminal” The entire purpose of the proposed terminal, as has been applied for, is to export coal.  The “multi-purpose” terminology is a deliberate attempt to obscure this fact.
Efforts to reduce information available to decision makers Under threat of lawsuit, Whatcom County Council members have been advised to avoid reading or hearing any information about the proposed project.  So, the people who will ultimately vote on permitting the project are required to be the least informed about it.
Historical non-compliance and accident rates The actual performance of big carbon industry is never as good as what appears in a permit application.  While evaluating each potential impact, the permitting agencies should apply historical rates of accidents and non-compliance both industry-wide and specific to the applicants, in order to get a complete picture of likely impacts.
Length of public comment window The expected window of only 60 days for EIS scoping public comments is inadequate considering the substantial public interest.  The ESI Scoping public comment period should be lengthened to a minimum of 120 days.
Limited Opportunities for Public Participation The EIS / permit process only allows for 2 public comment windows, one very near the beginning of the process and one near (but not at) the end.  The process should add, at a minimum: (1) Opportunities for the public to introduce new evidence while the EIS is in process; and (2) The ability to comment on the "Final" EIS that was produced in response to public comments on the draft EIS.
Loss of Community Rights The current process does not give local communities any say, other than "commenting", on whether they accept very serious local impacts.  This gives multi-national corporations, which reflect substantial foreign ownership, more say in these communities than the residents themselves.
Loss of Property Rights Property may be seized by eminent domain for railroad or terminal development.  This is particularly likely if an additional rail route through eastern Whatcom County is developed.
Misleading and false statements by applicants The applicant has provided numerous misleading statements, such as the falsehood that the terminal will not notably increase train traffic compared to some imaginary alternate case of (impossibly expanded) exports through Canada.
Limited opportunity to provide spoken comments The permitting agencies should make provision to allow all interested parties to provide their comments in person, at all affected communities.  No person should be denied the opportunity to comment in person simply because "time is up" at an insufficient number of public meetings.
Local officials are barred from representing the interests of their constituents Under current interpretations of permitting law, local bodies like county councils are barred from considering the broad interests of the community in deciding whether to grant the permits.  They are only allowed to consider the few questions that the law allows. These are biased in such a way as to favor the granting of permits – even when to do so would cause harm to the community concerned or to local ecosystems or to both.
Rounding people out of existence Sometimes a project of this type is allowed to go forward even with demonstrated health effects because the number of people adversely affected is not “significant.”  This should not be allowed if adverse health effects are likely to occur to any population.
The Rights of Nature are Ignored Natural ecosystems have a right to thrive which we have up to now ignored. In the legal system, nature is viewed simply as property: something that the “owner” has a right to destroy at will (look at what happens where coal mining is going on). This is a core ingredient in the recipe for ecological collapse that we have been putting together for the last 200 years. The only remedy is to recognize that nature has rights, too.
The world has a right to a sustainable energy future Our current energy system is creating a risk of world ecological collapse. Its main sources (coal, oil, natural gas) are finite. The urgent policy need is to adopt a level of energy usage, and source of energy, that will not destroy the planet and which will be reliably available over time.
The world has a right to a natural climate Projects like this one fly in the face of this right.
Violating Native American rights to resources The project will involve impacts on Native Americans such as loss of fishing, in some cases violating explicit treaty rights that have been agreed by the United States government.
Ok, admit it.  You counted!  So now you know that it's 102 (* ).  The extra is just in case one of them doesn't speak to you - just go with the other 101.  And anyway, there are more.  I just stopped at a convenient number.

And, if you need to discard two of the items, here is #103:

Really, just WTF are they thinking?
Just a few notes about the list:

- Devastation from greenhouse gases only makes it on to a few items on the list, despite being a hugely important issue.  That's because, if global warming were deconstructed into its myriad consequences, it would be a million reasons to be concerned about coal export, and you wouldn't be able to find any of the local and regional issues in the list.  Don't be silenced on climate change - for inspiration read KC Golden speaking out on this.

- On reviewing the list, it is personally painful to see the short shrift I ended up giving to the consequences at the receiving end, in China.  The impacts that our friends and neighbors (and in some cases family members!) in China will experience, will surely be much greater than anything we have to deal with.  I'd really like to see more on this aspect of it, but just don't have the knowledge to even start to do justice to it.

And if you find that you couldn't bear to read the whole thing .... well, me neither.

Upcoming Events:

Our Goal is No Coal! walk in Bellingham WA at 12 Noon on May 5th.

A series of informational sessions about making your voices heard during the upcoming EIS Scoping Public Comment Period will be held soon - check Re Sources for schedule and updates.

And lots and lots more to come ...

Any time you think that you don't have a choice, you actually do.  

Any time you think you have to do something that's wrong, you don't.

Our future - worth saving

Not Here.  
Not Today.  
Not Any More.

We Shall Not Participate in Our Own Destruction

Previous entries in the series, in chronological order first to most recent:

We shall not participate in our own destruction
Pretty much the dumbest idea ever
Can a community defy a cabal of multi-national corporations?
Great for the coal cabal!  For us, not so much
And So it Begins
Right Brain for This Decision?

(* ) Okay, more than 102 now, with some additions based on reader suggestions.


Thanks for items provided by: David Bain, Stoney Bird, Cindy Franklin, Terry Garrett, Judy Hopkinson, Eric Jensen, RL Miller, and Scott Sanderson.

- For a very well organized portal to information on coal export, see Coal Train Facts
- Plans are underway to pass an ordinance banning the coal trains from Bellingham
- Protect Whatcom has great info on the issue
- Photographer Paul Anderson has amazing images, both of the beauty of our area and the
  lack thereof in the coal industry
- Local organization Re Sources has organized important information about the project.
- Re Sources has also sued SSA Marine based on Clean Water Act violations
- CommunityWise Bellingham has has published an excellent economic study about the project
- WhatcomWatch has provided regular updates and opinion
- Sierra Club has a lot to say about it
- has had very good coverage of the issue
- It's a natural for
- GetWhatcomPlanning has excellent insights on the ongoing permitting saga
- Safeguard the South Fork alerts us to the risk of an eastern route for the coal trains

Originally posted to Climate Hawks on Wed May 02, 2012 at 03:07 PM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots and Community Spotlight.

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