Editorial Comment: Spokane should oppose coal trains

Coal trains would bring pollution and congestion through the inland Northwest en route to ports on the coast of the Pacific Ocean with no direct benefit to us. (PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons)

The #spokanerising Project opposes plans to increase coal shipments through the inland Northwest. Such shipments, estimated at 18 additional trains daily to supply the Gateway Pacific Terminal alone, would harm our neighborhoods and threaten our neighborhood vitality. Collectively, the coal conglomerates want to ship an additional 150 million tons of coal every year to China and other developing Asian nations. That’s enough to fill 10,000 more trains every year, and most of them would roll through Spokane’s neighborhoods and its downtown.

Spokane should be the epicenter of this debate. As the largest inland city on the route from the Powder River Basin to the coast, we stand to lose the most from the export proposals. Think about the impact of 18+ additional trains at Witter Aquatics Center, located across the street from Avista Utilities at Perry and Mission. Think about the impact of 18+ additional trains on the burgeoning University District, set to be a full-scale medical and graduate school. Think about the impact of 18+ additional trains downtown, where Expo 74 promised to clean up a dirty, seedy central business district–and then delivered. Who’s going to want to develop in neighborhoods like that? Who’s going to want to increase neighborhood vitality in a neighborhood where trains diminish property values and destroy quality of life? Coal trains are antithetical to increased positive development.

We learned a lot from Expo, but if these coal export proposals are developed, then we risk going back on the commitments and the changes that we made. We risk going back to before 1974. And that’s not a risk that we should be taking.

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