Unfortunately, as Mike O'Leary pointed out, the coal barons still want to sell their goods, and are looking to ship it to China, perhaps via Oregon. While there are implications for the planet, there are also significant implications locally, including the health dangers of coal dust.
That's in part why mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith took a position against those shipments, first announced here in the comments of BlueOregon. He now has a video on the subject as well. In the video, "Coal Ain't Cool," Jefferson explains his position and four-part plan on this serious issue with a dash of humor (a pedestrian is handily labeled "not a coal train").
Today a new report argues coal shipment could dramatically impact other rail freight as well as burdening taxpayers. It could increase rail traffic by 187%.
The Oregonian's Scott Learn has the story:
Coal trains destined for planned terminals in Oregon and Washington could gum up already congested lines, increase rail rates for other freight and increase taxpayers' costs to fix rail problems, a report released today by the Western Organization of Resource Councils predicts.
Six Northwest export terminals are on the drawing boards, with plans to ship some 150 million tons of coal a year to fast-growing Asia, up from about 5 million tons annually now through three British Columbia ports. For context: In 2010, trains unloaded about 80 million tons of freight in Oregon and Washington.
"This, make no mistake about it, is a huge, huge increase in volume, like we've never seen before in this part of the world," said Terry Whiteside, a rail consultant based in Montana and one of the report's authors.
The report was commissioned by the Western Organization of Resource Councils, "a regional network of seven grassroots community organizations that include 10,000 members and 38 local chapters." Oregon Rural Action is a member.
There's a key finding:
Total required rail improvements in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho could exceed $5 billion. The railroads... would pick up costs for many line upgrades. But state and local governments "would likely bear the brunt" of local improvements to compensate for train traffic, spending "hundreds of millions" on projects such as rail bypasses and adding overpasses to separate trains from roads.
That's real money from taxpayers. Maybe not CRC mega-project money, but hundreds of millions of dollars we don't have.
The Oregonian is on this beat, and the issue will likely arise before local governments before too long, as it did in Seattle. More, undoubtedly, to come.