Moving Forward in the Fight Against Coal Export from the Pacific Northwest

Possible Terminals in Washington and Oregon Photo: Dan Aguayo/The Oregonian
What started as a low rumbling has turned into a roar of voices in opposition to the proposed coal export from the Power River Basin in Wyoming and Montana through a possible six terminals in Washington and Oregon. A diverse collection of community members from anglers to doctors and business owners throughout the region are speaking up against these proposed projects. The most recent voice to be heard is that of Oregon governor John Kitzhaber.

Letter from the Governor

Governor Kitzhaber has officially asked the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Land Management for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the projects. The EIS would look at the possible impacts from the projects on the health of the environment and communities of the Pacific Northwest.

There are a number of concerns that the governor outlines in his letter. There would be an increase in barges along the Columbia. There is also the possibility of water pollution from the coal dust as well as the possibility of spills while transporting the coal. Coal dust emissions at the facilities and during transport is an additional issue as well as emissions from mercury, diesel, ozone and other green house gases which will only help fuel climate change. The trains that would carry the coal would be up to a mile and a half long and would cause significant delays for those trying to cross the tracks. This is of particular concern for emergency vehicles which could see significant delays in getting to their destination.

Impacts could also be seen in the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, a 292,500-acre tract that stretches the length of the Columbia Gorge. This region offers many recreational opportunities like fishing, biking, hiking, water activities and more. The economy in cities such as Moiser, OR is dependent upon tourism brought in by the recreational opportunities from the Gorge. Cities like Moiser will be affected by the coal terminals, which will have a significant impact on the tourism industry in this area.

The Dark Side of the Light Bulb

In the face of climate change Washington is moving away from dirty energy like coal and towards renewable energy like wind. Photo: Bryn Fluharty
Coal is the leading energy generator in the U.S. and around the world. It is a cheap and accessible source of energy that has powered our homes, offices and streets for many years. While we have thrived off of coal and other fossil fuels for many years, there is a dark side to this light. The emissions from burning coal—such as carbon dioxide—are the leading causes of climate change.

Due to the harmful properties of coal the discussion is turning toward renewable energy, including wind and solar here in the U.S. While we are starting to move towards a cleaner future within our borders, we are still one of the leading producers and exporters of coal in the world. Any coal shipped through these terminals will be burned in Asia, which will in turn have an impact on pollution levels here in the Pacific Northwest and will help continue to drive climate change, two issues addressed by the governor in his letter.

Thank You for Your Support

Thanks to the support of Governor Kitzhaber, local communities and other concerned citizens we are moving forward in fighting for our right to a healthy environment and thriving communities. Want to join in the conversation and learn more about this important issue? Check out Power Past Coal for more information and upcoming events in your area! Let us know what you think!