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The Election, the Environment, and Our Families

Published on: December 30, 2013

coal_carEditor's Note: The following is an op-ed piece.

By Audrey Querns, member, CoolMom, and Terri Glaberson, Executive Director, CoolMom

The election is mere weeks away and ballots will be arriving in the mailboxes of Washington State families starting this week.

Before filling out your ballot, it is vital to know where our local, state, and national candidates stand on environmental issues that affect the health of our families, our neighbors and our planet. As a non-profit, 501(c)3, CoolMom cannot endorse candidates, but we can tell you what issues we are tracking as we look through the voter pamphlets, candidate- and issue-focused websites, and newspaper articles to piece together the environmental positions of the candidates.

In addition to reducing dependence on fossil fuels through conservation and alternative energy, CoolMom is concerned about the proposed plan to move millions of tons of coal by train through Washington and Oregon each day for shipment to Asia.

Coal companies are seeking permission to build five coal shipping terminals in Washington and Oregon. One of them, north of Bellingham at Cherry Point, would greatly impact the daily lives of those in Seattle and more broadly anyone living, working, doing business or recreating along the rail-line.

If built, the Cherry Point coal terminal would mean, up to 18, 1.5-mile-long coal trains with uncovered loads would make their way through populated areas such as Spokane, Tacoma, Seattle and Bellingham every day. It would mean 970 massive cargo ships hauling coal through by the San Juan Islands and through the Salish Sea.

The health impact from coal dust on miners is well-documented, and with these trains, coal dust and diesel exhaust would be dispersed through Washington air. The noise and traffic congestion from these extremely long trains would affect quality of life, the movement of local commerce, and also emergency vehicles. There would also be health and environmental impacts from the terminals themselves, planned for Longview, WA and Cherry Point, WA, near Bellingham and adjacent to a wildlife preserve.

We need to elect candidates who understand that environmental issues are global issues and family issues. Transporting coal across our state could affect millions of families across Washington State. Building massive coal terminals in the Northwest would impact the health of the land and water in those areas, and shipping millions of tons of coal to Asia everyday would lead to increase emissions from carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses at a time when we should be doing everything in our power to reduce them.

Three actions to take before the election on November 6th:

1.    Make sure that you are registered to vote. Don’t miss this important election! You have until October 29th to register to vote in Washington State.  Check out the Secretary of State Election website to find out if you are registered and where to register to vote.

2.    Find out where your local, state and national candidates stand on these issues. Here are some websites to visit:

•    League of Conservation Voters National Environmental Score Card.

•    ConservAmerica (GOP conservationists).

3.    Get involved to stop coal trains in Washington State. The comment period regarding the coal export facility at Cherry Point has begun. A public hearing will be held on Nov 13th at the North Seattle Community College. Visit the CoolMom website for more information.

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