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Originally published Friday, August 2, 2013 at 5:31 PM

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Editorial: Coal-train terminal to get a close look

Broad impacts of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point in Whatcom County will receive rigorous state environmental review.

Seattle Times Editorial

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WASHINGTON residents from Spokane to Washougal to Bellingham will get what they clamored for, a detailed review of a proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point.

Studies announced Wednesday will look at the environmental, health, economic, transportation and cultural impacts near the site and along the delivery route.

The state Department of Ecology, Whatcom County and the federal Army Corps of Engineers had held meetings throughout the region to solicit comments to construct their to-do list.

To a great extent, the agencies listened. Ecology in particular is using the state Environmental Protection Act to look at a range of topics that include the effects of increased coal trains on health, the impact of coal-ship transports on local waterways and greenhouse-gas emissions when coal markets as far away as China burn the product.

The Corps opted to keep its inquiries closer to the terminal site. But its role in the federal permit process might be expanded by the Lummi Nation’s plans to raise tribal rights and concerns about natural and cultural-heritage issues.

The tribe’s expression of its government-to-government rights brings the Corps more into play.

Plans to dramatically expand exports of coal from the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana raised concerns around the Northwest. Cherry Point is one of at least three regional sites under consideration for export facilities.

The level of scrutiny announced this week had been sought by the former governor, candidates for governor, lawmakers in Olympia, tribes and cities and towns along the way.

Concerns range from traffic delays and the movement of emergency vehicles to a growing recognition of the hazards that burning coal plays in ocean acidification and the local shellfish industry.

The Cherry Point review might take up to two years, but a credible inquiry is worth the investment of time and money.

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