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Prospect of more coal trains raises concerns in NW Washington


Washington Governor Chris Gregoire puts one long running environmental controversy to bed Friday. She’s traveling to Centralia to sign into law a phase out of coal-fired electricity generation in the state. But meanwhile, another coal controversy is heating up in another part of Washington. It has to with a big new export terminal planned for north of Bellingham. Big crowds turned out at back-to-back community forums this week in Bellingham and Acme, Washington. People sought information about the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal. It would load bulk commodities for export to Asia, including coal brought in from Montana and Wyoming. Some residents are excited by the prospect of hundreds of new jobs, but others worry about round-the-clock train traffic. In eastern Whatcom County, grocer Jeff Margolis lives right near what’s now a little used rail line.

“I am glad to hear the whistle blow at 5 a.m. because that is when I rise and go to work. But I don’t know if I’ll appreciate that every 45 minutes. ”

A spokeswoman for BNSF Railway says it’s way too early to say how many additional coal trains could traverse the Northwest and by which routes. The Cherry Point export terminal is at least four years away from opening if it comes to fruition.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

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