Protesters turn out in hundreds for anti-coal march in Bellingham

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 5, 2012 

BELLINGHAM - Hundreds of coal train opponents rallied through downtown Bellingham Saturday, May 5, in protest of a proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point.

More than 450 people, under the banners of several local anti-coal groups, marched from City Hall to Maritime Heritage Park at noon.

Penny Page, who walked her bike in the procession to the park, said she's concerned about pollution, noise and the trains' effect on the integrity of the waterfront. She lives on Eldridge Avenue, near the railway.

"The hillside shakes when those trains go by," she said.

Marchers chanted the slogan of the day ("Our Goal! No Coal!") and waved poster boards reading, "Clean coal is an oxymoron," "Black lung is no fun," and "Mitigate this!" above a drawing of Earth in a frying pan.

On the steps of the park amphitheatre the crowd listened to anti-coal, pro-alternative energy organizers admonish SSA Marine and Peabody Energy for plans to increase coal train traffic through Bellingham.

"But this is not a Fairhaven problem," said Terry Wechsler, co-founder of Protect Whatcom. "It's a nationwide - it's a global problem."

Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville proclaimed May 5 Climate Impacts Day, following suit with 350.org's worldwide campaign of the same name.

Later in the day, a protest against coal exports at the White Rock pier resulted in the arranged arrests of 14 protesters, The Province newspaper of Vancouver reported.

Approximately 50 members of British Columbians for Climate Action and 350.org rallied next to the railway all day, threatening to block the route if any coal trains came through.

Prior to his arrest Saturday, group spokesman Kevin Westbrook said Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway lawyers claimed six coal trains were scheduled to cross the border.

Only one coal train from Wyoming crossed on Saturday and was stopped by police to facilitate the welcomed arrests. The protesters were later released and ticketed $115 each under the Railway Act for trespassing on private property.

Supporters of a proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point say it would bring hundreds of jobs to Whatcom County.

Diane Cooper-Schick, who walked in the Bellingham protest, said she doubts those jobs would materialize. And even if they did, the benefits would be outweighed by the negative impact on the environment.

"Even if there is a small gain," she said, "if we lose our quality of life, then you've lost big time."

Reach Caleb Hutton at caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-715-2276.

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