Would Coal Ships Threaten the San Juan Islands?

What fossil fuel export plans mean for Northwest waters.
This post is part of the research project: Northwest Coal Exports

A lot of the debate about coal export proposals has centered on the impacts of coal trains, and yet—as students of geography like to point out—you can’t actually get coal from the Northwest to Asia on trains. You need ships too. A lot of ships.

The proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point, for example, would require 974 trips annually through the San Juan Islands by huge coal-bearing cargo ships. And that potentially huge growth in seaborne coal traffic is raising concerns about vessel safety, noise, and the risk of a spill that would devastate the marine environment in one of the most treasured parts of the Northwest.

I could go on about this at length, but I couldn’t do a better job than Floyd McKay has already done. In a recent piece at Crosscut, McKay provides a thorough examination of the rise of fossil fuel vessels transiting the Salish Sea. It’s an excellent piece of reporting and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the coal exports debate. Go read it here.

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