The Capitol Record

Anticipating big crowds, random drawings will be in place at upcoming coal meetings

People have been turning out in the hundreds — sometimes thousands — at a series of “scoping” meetings that are meant to get public input about a proposed coal export terminal near Bellingham.

Until now, speaking slots have been handed out to those first in line — a process that has resulted in people arriving several hours early. At a recent meeting in Ferndale, a pro-coal group admitted to paying people to wait in line.

The agencies in charge of the meetings announced today they’re switching to a random drawing system for two upcoming meetings, including one in Seattle that’s expected to draw a large crowd.

Each meeting will have 150 two-minute speaking slots, with drawings at the top of each hour during the three-hour event. People can enter the drawing at any time during the meeting.

Environmentalists oppose the project because of health and pollution concerns, while supporters argue that it’ll bring jobs to the region. More than 2,000 people turned out for the first scoping meeting in Bellingham, while a hearing earlier this week in Spokane drew 800 people to the county fairgrounds.

The next meeting will be held in Vancouver, Wash., on Dec. 12 at 4 p.m. at Clark College. In Seattle, the scoping meeting will take place on Dec. 13 at 4 p.m. at the Washington Convention Center, Ballroom 6F. People can also submit comments online before Jan. 21st, 2013.

TVW will be taping the meeting in Seattle (with a possible live webcast). We’ll also have coverage here on our blog and our weekly public affairs program, “The Impact.”

TVW produced an hourlong documentary about the controversy over the coal export terminals, called “Coal Crossroads.”

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