It's shaping up to be one of the most controversial proposals in Washington state, pitting some labor unions against environmentalists.

The dispute involves a plan to ship U.S. coal to Asian markets from Northwest ports, bringing up to 18 coal trains per day through Seattle and other Puget Sound cities.

Having all that coal pass by doesn't sit well with the owner of Seattle's Great Wheel, Kyle Griffith. Now that the Alaskan Way Viaduct is coming down, Griffith said he fears a new shadow will fall on his tourist attraction. It would be a shame if we take one wall down and replace it with another. A wall of coal trains, he said Wednesday.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn on Wednesday said he is commissioning a study on the economic impact of the trains.

McGinn said he wants to know if more coal trains will block freight traffic to and from the Port of Seattle. If local manufacturers can't transport their goods, these are impacts we have to look at, McGinn said.

Some labor unions and businesses have formed a group to support of coal terminals and trains. They say the coal business would bring solid jobs to the area.

Environmental groups, meanwhile, believe the United States should be doing more to wean the world off burning coal, a major contributor to pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Others note that coal spilled into the waters of the Puget Sound could threaten a delicate ecosystem.

On Thursday, all sides will come together at the Convention Center in Seattle as the federal government holds an environmental assessment hearing. The meeting is scheduled for 4:00 p.m.

Read or Share this story: