GRETNA, LA – On Wednesday, August 13th, dozens of Gretna and West Bank residents packed the Gretna City Council’s monthly meeting to voice their opposition to bringing RAM Terminals’ coal trains through their communities, raising myriad concerns with how the proposed terminal and its coal trains would impact public health, traffic, emergency response services, and efforts to restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. Despite the residents’ pleas, the Council failed to take a stand against bringing coal trains through the city – instead passed a resolution supporting a proposal to reroute the train tracks out of Gretna.
"We can’t sit around waiting for some pie-in-the-sky plan to reroute the tracks to come to pass," said Gayle Bertucci, a Gretna resident. "If the RAM coal export terminal is allowed to move forward, coal trains could be rolling by our front doors as soon as next year. We’re not going away. It’s time for the Council to stop changing the subject and stand with residents in opposition to coal trains.”
In response to public testimony, at the close of the Council meeting Mayor Belinda Constant said, “We don’t want coal trains going through this city.” However, she did not commit to supporting a resolution in opposition to coal trains.
“Our council members were elected to represent the interests of the people of Gretna, not the railroad, not the coal company,” stated Laurie Ledet. “We want to hear that our public officials will stand with us by issuing a public statement against RAM Terminals' coal trains. We're also asking them to call on the Army Corp to hold a public hearing.”
The public call for action from Gretna’s City Council follows the Westwego City Council’s June resolution against coal trains. The resolution asserts coal trains would risk the health and safety of Westwego residents as well as the environment.
The RAM Terminals facility has provoked public outcry in part because it would generate coal dust pollution and undermine the state’s plan to restore coastal wetlands.
“All told, if the RAM terminal runs only three trains per week, that amounts to approximately 92,000 pounds of coal lost in the Westbank and 16,000 pounds in Gretna, each and every year,” said Al Armendariz, Senior Campaign Representative with the Sierra Club. “How many years and how many tons of coal dust are Gretna’s leaders willing to put up with?”
The proposed RAM coal expert terminal would be located directly adjacent to a major coastal restoration project – the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion – in the state’s Coastal Master Plan.
“No one wants mile-long, uncovered coal trains dividing their communities, and coal export terminals pollute our air, water, and wetlands” said Grace Morris, Senior Organizer with Gulf Restoration Network. “We’re calling on local, state, and federal officials to put Louisiana’s interests over those of an out-of-state coal company.”
The Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition includes Air Alliance Houston, Gulf Restoration Network (GRN), the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), Public Citizen, Sierra Club, TOP (Texas Organizing Project) and T.E.J.A.S., (Texas Environmental Advocacy Services).