2012 Election

Candidates in 36th Spar Over Coal

By Josh Feit September 13, 2012

This post was originally part of Fizz, but we've moved it up because of length and reader interest. With reporting by Erica C. Barnett.

The proposal to ship coal out of the Cherry Point port outside Bellingham that became a controversial flash point in the 1st Congressional District primary race between Democrats may now become one in a Democratic state house intramural.

36th District state house candidate Noel Frame, who's running against Democratic Port of Seattle Commissioner Gael Tarleton for retiring state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson's (D-36, Ballard) open seat, is going after Tarleton over the plan.

The planned transport, part of a shipment from Montana to Bellingham (and eventually China) will run between 16 and 18 trains per day (one every 75 to 90 min, basically), each potentially 1.5 miles long, taking roughly three to seven minutes to pass through the seven train crossings—from Spokane Street to Wall Street—in Seattle.

Frame says running coal trains through the 36th is unacceptable both because of environmental concerns and traffic concerns. She raps Tarleton, as Port commissioner, for not objecting to the deal and points out that SSA Marine, a major Port client, owns the planned terminal. A subsidiary of SSA Marine, Pacific International Terminals, maxed out to Tarleton during the primary, giving $900.

Tarleton has not returned a call for comment; however, her campaign points to comments she made to the Stranger opposing public expenditure on coal trains and calling for a full environmental review of the proposal.

“I want to make it clear that I oppose all efforts to expand coal shipments through the 36th Legislative District. Coal is one of the dirtiest fuels still in use today. It pollutes the air we breathe and the water we drink, and it destroys our planet’s fragile climate. Allowing more mile-and-a-half long coal trains in our communities would result in more pollution and traffic, and fewer jobs. Coal trains are a lose-lose for my district,” Frame said.

She went on to accuse her opponent, Tarleton, of "refus[ing] to stand up to the Port of Seattle's corporate clients" and failing to protect "the health and jobs of working families in our community."

Frame's position on the coal trains is relatively new. Back in late May, responding to a question about coal trains and climate change, she told the 36th District Democrats, "I will be the first one to admit this is not something I know extensively...”
We have a call out to Tarleton.
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