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Momentum builds against coal trains

Activists who say Milwaukie is at risk of becoming a “dirty coal corridor” are ramping up efforts to oppose a proposed coal export terminal at the Port of Coos Bay that could bring daily coal trains through the city’s rail lines.

Milwaukie’s City Council last week again discussed the possibility of adopting a resolution against the proposal (“Milwaukie might take stand on coal trains,” Aug. 15).

On Tuesday, Sept. 18, supporters of this move will encourage City Council by giving public comment to elected officials at 7 p.m.

“This is a very important issue for Milwaukie and every other area that the trains would pass through,” said Mary King, a former city councilor and member of the Milwaukie Coal Task Force. “We would be seeing lowered house values in Milwaukie, and we would also be getting the dust coming off the uncovered coal cars.”

Activists also plan to attend a Tuesday, Sept. 25, City Council work session to learn more about the Coos Bay export terminal and how it will impact rail traffic in Milwaukie.

Coal companies propose transport of 150 million tons of coal annually through the Columbia River Gorge to Oregon ports in Coos Bay, St. Helens, Boardman, Bellingham, Wash., and Longview, Wash. Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, spokeswoman for Columbia Riverkeeper, outlined potential risks if the largest coal companies in the world supplied U.S. coal to Asian markets.

“Coal is the dirtiest fuel on the planet, and coal trains are a health risk, spewing toxic coal dust as they travel from strip mines in Montana and Wyoming to the port,” Zimmer-Stucky said. “Milwaukie is one of dozens of cities impacted by export proposals across the Northwest.”

Opponents of coal transport have taken heart in the momentum building as cities across the state move against the proposal.

“If this port gets the go-ahead, it would not just be coal,” King said. “It’s our hope that this does not get off the ground.”

Mayor Jeremy Ferguson and Dr. Susan Katz of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility are among the guests expected at a public Coal Hard Truth Forum on Thursday, Sept. 27, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Milwaukie High School Auditorium, 11300 S.E. 23rd Ave.

On Wednesday, Sept. 12, Milwaukie Coal Task Force will meet from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. at Milwaukie Kitchen and Wine, 10610 S.E. Main St., to discuss other ways the group plans to oppose the proposal.

City Council is expected to vote on a resolution opposing coal next month.