I am writing in response to the welcome news that RailAmerica has surrendered its ambition to set up a coal port in Hoquiam. One of the six proposed coal export sites for SSA Marine, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Peabody Coal in the Pacific Northwest is now off-limits.
As a physician and owner-operator of a bed and breakfast on the outskirts of Bellingham, one of my chief concerns is the public health effects of coal dust. By their own figures, some 3 percent of the 150 million tons of coal is lost along the route. That in turn calculates to 4.5 million tons.
From the Powder River Basin to Cherry Point is 1,046 miles, hence we are talking about 4,500 tons of coal dust on average per mile per year of operation - equivalent to 9 million pounds of coal dust per mile every year, containing contaminants like cadmium, lead and mercury, and including particles that are associated with lung and blood vessel disease. Even if only 48 million tons pass directly to Cherry Point, that still adds up to 3 million pounds of coal dust per mile each year in Whatcom County.
We need to make the same rational decision that the citizens of Hoquiam made and put Cherry Point to far better and more benign uses. Organize to stop the coal train proposal.