The Monroe Monitor & Valley News, January 12, 2013
By Polly Keary, Editor
Monroe [a city in Snohomish County, Washington] already gets 23 trains through town per day. Within a couple of years, that number could be 32, and rising every year thereafter. And the new trains could be more than mile long each, all carrying coal. And that is worrying mayors and transportation groups around Washington, including the Highway 2 Safety Coalition.
Getting coal to the coast
“I found out about the coal trains about a year ago,” said Fred Walser, chairman of the Highway 2 Safety Coalition. “I went to a SCCIT (Snohomish County Committee on Improved Transportation) meeting and Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling gave a talk at length about how the coal trains would impact Snohomish County in a big way.”
Coal production is increasing in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming, and Asia is increasing fuel consumption. So coalmining companies are working hard to expand their access to the northwest ports.
It could be a while yet; the coalmining companies still have to get export permits.
Not only that, but the only port currently handling coal is in British Columbia. So coalmining interests are trying to get approval to back expansions of ports in Longview and Cherry Point near Anacortes, both in Washington, which will also take some time.
The permitting process alone could take a year or more; right now the process is just beginning. Coalmining operators are asking that the only impacts that permitting agencies should evaluate are those regarding the project sites. But many other interest groups, including environmentalists and the citizenry of the communities through which the trains will pass, are calling for the agencies to consider the impacts that will occur between the mines and the ports.
The cities of the Sky Valley will be among those communities affected should the trains increase.