• New coal train report released, kept under wraps for 5 weeks

    By: Essex Porter


    Seattle - A new city report has positive things to say about coal trains in Seattle, so is that why it spent 5 five weeks in Mayor Mike McGinn's office before it was released?

    Announced by the mayor at a news conference in December, the report says the coal train terminal proposed for Whatcom County would likely spur an increase in other exports. In addition, according to the report, the city would benefit from $28 million in design and permitting fees and $2.4 million in yearly payroll.

    "The main thing the report found is that there are economic benefits to doing these facilities," said Lauri Hennessey. Hennessey represents the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports, which is promoting the coal terminals.

    Hennessey doubts those facts please McGinn, who did not hold a news conference to release the report, instead posting it to his blog." I think he did not necessarily like what the report found," Hennessey said, "so probably it could have just gone away."

    But McGinn says the report was being vetted by city staff before it was released under the city's banner. "The report was released when it was final. We received a draft in July," said the mayor. "We provided additional review and commentary to the drafters of the report who voluntarily changed the report in response to those comments."

    In fact, the report also supports McGinn's opposition to coal trains by pointing out the potential costs. It says taxpayers may have to spend $100 million to build a new rail overpass at South Lander Street. It says Seattle may have to spend more than $9 million to relocate the SODO fire station so that mile-long coal trains won't block firefighters trying to get to the waterfront. And the report says traffic congestion could cost drivers and their employers up to $455,000 a year.

    "Shipping coal with all of its impacts on the city, that's just not our road to economic development, not good for the region or planet either," said McGinn.

    Economics will play the deciding role. Plans for a coal terminal at Corpus Christi on the Texas coast were canceled this week because the price of coal worldwide is falling.


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