Recent coal train mishaps add fuel to coal terminal opposition

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Opponents of a huge, proposed coal exporting terminal in Whatcom County say they're concerned by two recent train accidents.

If built, some 24 million tons of coal would leave the terminal, bound for the Far East. It was an idea that got some in Bellingham riled back last January and they filed an initiative to block coal trains.

If you think they were riled then, try now. Just recently, a coal train derailed outside Chicago, and also in the Franklin County town of Mesa.

"It just underlines the need for people to say this cannot be, this whole project," said Stoney Bird with Coal Free Bellingham.

Everyone in Bellingham, it seems, has heard of what happened in Mesa, and county workers say reaction is mostly negative.

"People could end up not only having a lot of pollution in the air, but also these train wrecks," said Aubrey Horton. "It could hurt people."

Supporters insist safeguards will be built in, and they say it will create jobs where they are needed.

It's an argument that convinces some.

"II think if it is going to bring jobs to the United States, great," said Christine Wilmot. "I think it is just fine."

The Bellingham city council says it will let the voters decide in November if there will be coal trains in this city. But most legal experts say the city of Bellingham wouldn't have the power to stop it.

County council members who will make the final decision on required permits declined to comment. They say state laws bar them from making comments while considering zoning matters.
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