Protest Coal Trains in Washington State

Target: Peter Goldmark, Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands

Goal: Reject coal trains in Washington

Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel on earth. Shipping it creates environmental and public health problems for our country. Now that Big Coal is trying to extend its reach into the Pacific Northwest, Washingtonians have to stop it.

Public outcry against new train terminals near Longview, Bellingham and Cherry Point Washington have already forced coal companies to slow down expansion – their citizens have legitimate concerns about coal dust that scientists and doctors share. Although there has not yet been a comprehensive study about coal dust settling around the tracks, researchers know that children’s lungs are more vulnerable to the dust. Juliet Van Eenwyk, an epidemiologist with the Washington State Department of Health, says that if children’s lungs are exposed to air pollution, they can suffer from decreased lung function for the rest of their lives. Even low levels of coal dust are harmful to children.

How much coal dust escapes into the air while a coal train is moving? A railway representative in 2009 stated that 645 pounds of coal dust spews onto the tracks from one railcar during a 400-mile trip. Even with added dust suppressants, that number would be 100 pounds of coal dust emitted per car. Usually, there are around 125 cars carrying a total of 12,500 pounds of coal dust per train.

The Economist estimates that the railroad capacity plan for the north west would include 18 trains running to and from the Powder River Basin to Gateway Pacific Terminal close to Bellingham: nine full of coal and nine empty trains going back to the mines. So, the final number per day per one terminal is 115,500 pounds of coal dust. That is a disaster for our children and people with respiratory problems, not to mention the environment around our precious forests and unique water systems.

Coal trains are also immoral in our state, since the last coal-powered power plant is closing in 2025. China heavily depends on coal for its energy, and is in deep environmental and public health crisis. Washington should not contribute to these woes, but rather inspire China to pursue alternative energy options more aggressively. We have a moral obligation to Washingtonians and the Chinese.

Coal trains are a bad idea, and they should be stopped in their tracks. If you agree with this stance, please sign your name below.


Dear Mr. Goldmark,

Please use your power as the Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands to stop coal companies from building terminals to transport coal from our state to China. Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel with many known side effects. With an estimated 115,500 pounds of coal dust spewing onto the tracks per day en-route to Gateway Pacific Terminal this battle should only have one end. It is called alternative energy, the future of the world.

Washington should lead the way for renewable energy, not go back into the 19th century. Coal trains are dangerous for our children, people with respiratory problems, and wreak havoc on the environment.

Please speak out in opposition of construction of terminals near Longview, Bellingham and at Cherry Point. Save our children from coal dust, and the world from global climate change.


[Your Name Here]

Credit: rsgranne’s photostream via flickr

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  1. To the guy sitting on a tripod on the train tracks — i am one of hundreds of passengers stuck on passenger trains behind your coal train tripod interruption.. It doesn’t bother me much as I am young and ok…. BUT You aren’t only blocking ONE coal train… You are stopping hundreds of people from getting home to see their loved ones, attend weddings and funerals, medical appointments, pregnant mothers… This is a disgrace. I understand your protest / but there are smarter ways to do it than hurting hundreds of people. U left them stranded on trains w no access to hospitals and medical for the diabetic and elderly… I get what u “weren’t thinking” but this was plain stupid.

    • I’m not sure where you got your confidence, but one thing’s for sure: you’re speaking of irrelevant issues. People can block coal trains, but what gave you the idea that the person who started this petition was one of the protesters blocking the train?

      Also, if you look at the point, one can easily determine that building a better future for the next generation and preventing pollution in the environment is more important than the immediate discomfort and inconvenience caused by trains stopping. You might also want to note that trains are now an archaic method of travel, and those who need medical help would very likely not choose train as a method of travel.

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