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Big day in Bellingham for anti-coal activists and job seekers

Paul Anderson

Environmental activists are gathering in Bellingham for a big rally tomorrow. They’re trying to stop construction on a proposed shipping terminal at Cherry Point. It would handle millions of tons of coal from western states, to be used as a power source in China.

The rally is part of a Sierra Club campaign called “Power Past Coal.” It coincides with a public meeting by the Army Corps of Engineers, Whatcom County and the Washington Department of Ecology.

They’re preparing an environmental impact statement, and taking comments on everything from the prospect of more air pollution, to traffic disruptions if more big rail cars carrying coal roll through town.

Bellingham resident Walter Young,a retired commercial fisherman, says he’ll be demonstrating against the coal terminal.

“There’s no such thing as clean coal” he says, talking about comments he heard from Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney in recent debates with President Obama.

“We already have a very delicate ecosystem, planet-wide. And we’ve already gotten everything out of balance with the pollution that we are putting into (...) the Salish sea," Young says, referring to the water bodies off the west coast of Washington and British Columbia that include Bellingham Bay and Puget Sound. "So, for me, this is where we draw the line in the sand. We’ve got to stop this,” Young says.

Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville is on record as an opponent of the plan, along with several other local leaders and mayors of towns in Washington that would see new coal trains if the terminal is built. The mayor says people need to get involved now to help make sure there’s proper mitigation, at a minimum.

Backers say the jobs and tax revenue the terminal would create are badly needed. They would be mostly in construction. People who want those jobs are also expected to turn out in favor or the project.

Scoping started on the proposed coal terminal a month ago. Saturday's meeting is the first of seven public meetings being held statewide on its EIS. They continue through December 12th. Here's a list of the meetings. 

Written comments for an environmental impact statement are being accepted through January 21st.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to