Journal of the San Juan Islands


Canada clearly not a better route for coal | Letters

November 15, 2012 · Updated 9:11 AM

In his article, Clash over coal hits close to home”, (Nov. 7, page 1) Scott Rasmussen quotes Greg Hertel of Friday Harbor as saying that a coal port in the U.S. would be better than one in Canada, because we’d have more control over a U.S. facility.

However, Community Wise Bellingham has done in-depth research and analysis of coal contracts in British Columbia and concluded that only a fraction of the proposed U.S. coal exports could go through B.C. ports, even after planned terminal expansions in Canada.

Why? Because the great majority of Canadian capacity is committed by contract to Canadian companies.

At most, American companies might ship 8 to 10 million tons of coal a year through Canada, about a fifth of what could ship through the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) at Cherry Point, and “just seven percent of the total proposed Pacific Northwest export capacity for PRB [Powder River Basin] coal considering all six current proposals.”

In terms of coal trains, expanded shipments through Canada could mean 3-4 additional trains a day through Whatcom County and Bellingham, while the GPT could mean 18 additional trains a day, 16 of them for coal.

In short, though some coal might go through Canada, the impact on Whatcom County, Washington state and the Puget Sound would likely be far, far less than the proposed projects in the U.S.

For more information, go to communitywisebellingham.org and, under “Studies” click on “Train Traffic to Canada Analysis.”

Or, for a more concise treatment, see “Why US Coal Can’t Ship From Canada” at http://daily.sightline.org/2012/07/17/why-us-coal-cant-ship-from-canada/.

Michael Hurwicz/Orcas Island



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