Coal Terminal = Bad Neighbor
by Paula Rotondi
To the Editor,
Our Cherry Point industrial area has three existing industries — BP Refinery, Alcoa-Intalco and Conoco-Phillips — and none of these industries has endorsed the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT). The GPT proposal gives our existing Cherry Point industries significant reasons for concern. For them, the proposed GPT’s coal trains, coal ships and uncovered coal stockpiles would make GPT a horrific neighbor.
In 2011 BNSF won a lawsuit against the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (http://1.usa.gov/XWiWT2) by proving in court that coal dust from coal trains destabilizes railroad track and causes train derailments. BNSF won this legal fight by successfully proving in court that coal dust, “interferes with track stability to a much greater extent than other contaminants,” and “when combined with extraordinary amounts of precipitation weakens the rail bed and causes track failure.” GPT’s 18 daily coal trains would use the very same railroad track as BP’s and Conoco-Phillips’ crude oil trains and as Alcoa-Intalco’s chemical product trains. The last thing our existing Cherry Point industries need is for anything such as GPT to increase the likelihood that their trains would derail and/or explode.
GPT’s coal ships are another reason for the Cherry Point industries to oppose GPT. Not only are coal ships the biggest commercial ships on the sea — twice the size of the oil tankers allowed in Washington State ports — coal ships have the worst safety record of all commercial ships. Because coal ships are too big to move in a single shipping lane, they would move down the middle creating hazards and delays for all other industry ships increasing the likelihood of catastrophic accidents in our local waters.
And for BP management and staff, who work so diligently to operate their refinery safely, GPT operations would be a continual assault upon their safety efforts at BP. GPT’s six-story high, 2.5 miles of uncovered coal stockpiles would be just across the street (Aldergrove Road) from BP. Each year it’s likely that three million pounds of coal dust would escape from GPT’s uncovered coal stockpiles. GPT’s wind-blown coal dust would continually deposit and accumulate upon BP structures, sensors, valves, etc.and thus significantly increase the likelihood of malfunction and catastrophic accident.
Right now our existing Cherry Point industries provide thousands of good jobs for people who continually strive to operate these three industries safely. True supporters of our Cherry Point industries who carefully study the official GPT project application understand that GPT would significantly endanger the safe operation of BP, Conoco-Phillips and Alcoa-Intalco. Our existing Cherry Point industries deserve and need our community to support their safety efforts and that means opposing the proposed GPT.