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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, butothers 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

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.