Opinion

Good call by council asking for area-wide review of coal terminal project | Editorial

Credit the San Juan County Council with a wise move in asking the Army Corps of Engineers for an area-wide environmental impact statement for the proposed Gateway Pacific coal terminal at Cherry Point, near Bellingham.

We’ve heard goods reasons for building and operating the terminal, and many good reasons not to.

Proponents cite 1,200 permanent high-paying jobs and 4,400 temporary construction jobs as good reasons for the EPA and Whatcom County to approve the port, still in the early stages of consideration. They say with some justification that the overall benefit to the U.S. and local economies is hundreds of millions of dollars in wages and taxes here at home, and that the future of Cherry Point as a major Northwest industrial site is assured for the rest of the century.

They say they know how to make the terminal environmentally safe — and keep it that way.

Opponents point to pollution from the dust of 48 million tons of coal arriving on one open-top train per hour every year, not to speak of the “dirty-coal” pollution spewed into the air by factories in Asia using that tonnage of American coal. They point to a dubious past and doubt-filled future of promises made and broken by natural resource industries.

They say the glory of the natural world that is our bountiful Salish Sea is at risk and could be destroyed by a product that we don’t want to use in our own country.

Valid arguments on both sides.

But it should be without question that a multi-million dollar EIS must include careful, honest study of the entire Salish Sea area and that the study, in the words of the Council, must “include a comprehensive analysis of impacts to water quality, air quality, listed species, critical habitat, and aquatic resources, as well as impacts to public health and the local economy.”

If that’s done, we can live with, and perhaps thrive with, the results.

 

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