NWF Members Say “More Orcas! No Coal!”

Cherry Point, Washington, site of a proposed coal export terminal (photo: Paul Anderson)
Recently we told you about the threat coal poses to endangered Orcas and other wildlife in the Pacific Northwest. More than 1,800 of you took it to heart and signed our petition to prevent construction of coal terminals along the Oregon and Washington coasts, and other groups in the “Power Past Coal” coalition added to our record haul of forty thousand signatures. The petition was delivered this week to the Commissioner of Public Lands for Washington state, Peter Goldmark, who is a key decision-maker on whether or not these dirty projects move forward.

Not a moment too soon. The coal industry has just officially applied to export coal from the mouth of the Columbia River–the terminal, at Longview, WA, would be the gateway for at least 44 million tons of coal each year, bound for India and China.

Considering that the entire United States currently exports only 74 million tons, the Longview project (if built) would be a major, major setback in the fight for clean air, clean water, and environmental protection. Other proposed terminals at Cherry Point, Grays Harbor, Port of St. Helens, Coos Bay, and the Port of Morrow could push coal exports to nearly 200 million tons annually.

Exports: Sacrificing American Landscapes for a Foreign Market

Coal mining in the Powder River Basin has destroyed vast stretches of habitat for animals like mule deer (photo: C.V. Vick)
Arch Coal, Peabody Energy, and the industry’s other mega-corporations may have targeted Asia as their latest battleground, but they have no problem wrecking American landscapes and American communities to get what they want. Already, huge areas of the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana have become industrial “sacrifice zones” to feed demand for cheap coal.

Export projects are a sign of how desperate the coal industry is to keep their fat profits rolling in. Coal usage in the US has declined in recent years as electric utilities transition to natural gas, wind, and other sources of energy — and thanks to a sustained effort by conservationists to limit the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

And economists agree that coal isn’t part of the equation:

“Coal is a dead man walkin’,” says Kevin Parker, global head of asset management and a member of the executive committee at Deutsche Bank. “Banks won’t finance them. Insurance companies won’t insure them. The EPA is coming after them. . . . And the economics to make it clean don’t work.”

Coal trains -- like this one near the North Antelope Rochelle Mine in Wyoming -- can be over a mile and a half long, belching diesel emissions and toxic coal dust as they rumble through wildlife habitat and human communities (photo: Kimon Berlin)
Quotes like that scare the pants off Big Coal, because taking on underdog environmental groups is a lot easier than arguing with the banks that lend them money.

Petitions are one thing; action is another. NWF and the rest of the Power Past Coal coalition are mobilizing citizens in the Pacific Northwest to take on this challenge head-on. The fight begins in earnest later this spring, so stay tuned for the latest news and ways to get involved.

To learn more about coal exports visit NWF.org