Protect the Northwest’s Endangered Orcas from Dirty Coal

The Pacific Northwest is known for a lot of things – the Cascade range, clean energy and the high-tech sector, salmon and killer whales – but until recently “Coal” wasn’t in the conversation. That is changing, as a simmering fight on coal exports comes to a boil this year.

An Orca breaches near Washington State's San Juan Islands (photo: TheGirlsNY/
In numerous locations along the coast, the coal industry and port officials are leading efforts to dramatically ramp up shipments of American coal to China.The coal, which is strip-mined from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, would be brought a thousand miles by rail to the Pacific coast, dumped into mega-sized freighters and hauled across the ocean to feed Asia’s insatiable demand for cheap electricity.

The United States currently exports about 74 million tons annually, but producers like Arch Coal and Peabody Energy (two of the biggest polluters on the planet) are targeting new and expanded port facilities in the region, which would allow them to double or even triple that amount.

Coal: A dirty business

As you probably know, coal is one of the dirtiest sources of energy on the planet: it has a huge carbon footprint, contains mercury and other toxic materials, and mining is incredibly destructive to wildlife habitat. It certainly doesn’t fit with the clean, green values of many people in the Pacific Northwest; in fact, Washington state recently negotiated a deal to close down its last remaining coal-fired power plant by 2025.

So, understandably, the port expansion proposals have alarmed locals and caused a heated debate on the merits of the projects. Proponents say that it would bring jobs to the area. Opponents point out that coal export terminals employ relatively few people and are major sources of local air and water pollution.

To make matters worse, rail traffic would increase dramatically: if the ports at Cherry Point and Longview are built, local communities would be forced to deal with 40 extra mile-long coal trains rattling through every day, trailing coal dust and snarling traffic — and damaging fisheries, cropland, and other valuable natural resources.

Coal trains like this one contribute to air and water pollution as they pass through habitat (Photo: Paulv2c/
Even if you don’t live in the region, increased coal mining will affect your life by contributing to climate change — probably the biggest crisis facing our world.

Stand strong with us against increased coal exports

This is a big deal, and it’s happening now. National Wildlife Federation has partnered with several dozen local and national groups opposed to the coal terminals, in a coalition called Power Past Coal. Together, we aim to protect public health, wildlife, and a clean energy future for the Pacific Northwest. But we need your help! Click on the link below to keep Orcas and other wildlife safe from the threat of coal pollution.

Take ActionMake sure your voice is heard! Sign the petition to stop construction of new coal terminals on the Pacific coast.

For more information on coal exports, visit or