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Coal and Oil Transportation in the Northwest

This page provides general information about issues associated with coal and oil transportation in the Northwest, including examples of local government resolutions.


Most of the coal delivered to U.S. consumers and for foreign export is transported by railroads. Citizens and local governments in Washington State are concerned about the impacts of increased rail traffic going through their communities and the impacts of proposed coal and oil export facilities.

Environmental Review of Coal and Oil Facilities

Most cities and counties, other than those where facilities are located, have limited roles in the permitting of coal and oil terminals. Yet the impacts of the rail and waterborne transport of coal and oil affect many communities across the state. These impacts include health and pollution issues associated with railroad and tanker accidents, traffic congestion at rail crossings, air quality concerns, and the indirect impacts of increased greenhouse gases on the environment.

The Washington State Department of Ecology is playing a central role in the environmental review process for the proposed coal and oil facilities. Local governments are key participants in the environmental review of these major facilities, and communities across the state are interested in full disclosure of environmental impacts.

Washington State Resources Addressing Oil Transportation

These resources provide statewide perspectives on oil transportation and its hazards and impacts.

Examples of Local Government Resolutions

Resolutions Related to Coal Transportation

  • Edmonds Resolution No. 1280 (2012) - Expresses concern about potential adverse impacts of increased coal traffic and requests that impacts to the city of Edmonds be addressed
  • Olympia Resolution No. M-1793 (2013) - Opposes construction of coal export facilities
  • Seattle Resolution No. 31379 (2012) - Opposes transportation of coal through Seattle
  • Spokane Resolution No. 2012-0052 (2012) - Expresses interest regarding potential impacts of increased rail traffic passing through Spokane resulting from proposed terminal projects
  • Vancouver Resolution No. M-3778 (2012) - Requests comprehensive review of coal export terminals to include the City of Vancouver as a party of interest in any environmental review
  • Washougal Resolution No. 1048 (2012) - Expresses concern about potential adverse impacts of increased coal traffic and requesting authority to require an EIS

Resolutions Related to Oil Transportation

These resolutions address environmental concerns regarding oil terminals and rail transport.

Environmental and Economic Studies

Some communities have conducted traffic studies and other reports to address the impact of trains that transport coal and oil passing through or stopping in their area. Most of these address the Gateway Pacific Terminal.

Recommended Resources

Last Modified: April 02, 2021