The Gateway Pacific Terminal will provide short term construction jobs and several hundred operational jobs, but these gains should be evaluated against long-term economic impacts on local, regional and global economic health.
Local economic impacts include: coal trains displacing trains carrying agricultural products, other freight, or passengers; cumulative delays of auto and truck traffic at grade crossings resulting in a general decrease in productivity; potential life threatening delays during medical emergencies; and decreased property values along the railway and increased respiratory and cardiac illnesses near the tracks
Regional impacts include: An additional 934 very large ships transiting the Gulf and San Juan Islands; increased risk of collision, grounding, or maneuvering casualty as the number of vessels passing though our narrow channels rise; increased odds of a large fuel spill reaching critical shorelines within one tidal cycle; catastrophe for our endangered Chinook salmon and Orca from a significant spill; and a substantial reduction in our $50 million tourist revenues from a spill which stains the natural beauty of our islands.
Global economic consequences from burning 130 million tons of US coal in Asia will be long-term, cumulative, and include: increased CO2 and other GHG’s entering the atmosphere and oceans, profoundly altering rainfall patterns, impacting agricultural production creating food insecurity and commodity disruptions worldwide; ocean acidification will upset the foundation of the marine food chain; shellfish and the nurseries of economically important fish will suffer decline if not collapse; and job losses among those dependent on the ocean’s bounty will dwarf any jobs gained from coal exportation.
Coal is a strategic energy stockpile that should be reserved for an uncertain climatic and financial future, leaving coal in the ground makes strategic sense and is a hedge against climate disaster.
Coal pollution from Asia returns to us in the form of secondhand smoke. It’s as if we kicked cigarettes only to find ourselves downwind of multitudes, smoking cheap, subsidized, cigarettes we sold to them. We should not be enabling a dangerous dependence on a fossil fuel that is economically harmful and unhealthy for the planet.