Coal Exports Through the Pacific Northwest—Get Ready for a Fight

In an earlier blog post I addressed the issue of Ambre Energy’s plan to export millions of tons of coal through Oregon. Right now, I want to take a step back and discuss the broader issue of exporting coal through the entire Pacific Northwest. You won’t be surprised to find out I think it is just about the worst possible direction for the entire region.

A little background: as the U.S. coal market shrinks due to declining domestic demand, the American coal industry wants to expand its rail lines to export more of its polluting product—a hundred and fifty million tons annually—beyond our borders. The coal would come from Montana and Wyoming and be shipped via Northwest ports to China and other countries with much weaker controls on emissions, mining and waste management.

The coal industry's latest plans put iconic species like salmon and steelhead in harm's way (photo: Nils Rinaldi)
In order to export this gigantic amount of dirty fuel, some of the biggest coal companies in the world are planning to expand six coal ports in Oregon and Washington. If their plans go through, communities from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin to the Pacific Ocean will have to deal with, just for starters, pollution from diesel and coal dust, degraded ecosystems and lower quality of life for people and wildlife.

Extracting coal—especially on the scale practiced in the Powder River Basin—also destroys important habitat. Blasting and strip mining in Montana and Wyoming have already wrecked hundreds of thousands of acres of prairie, streams, and other habitat that was once home to abundant wildlife, while the coal companies have utterly ignored their responsibility to restore the landscape, despite being required to do so by law. The government, for its part, has turned a blind eye. And let’s not forget that climate change, caused by burning fossil fuels like coal, threatens wildlife because it is altering the landscape so rapidly that some species may not be able to adapt.

A fight has begun over the future of the Pacific Northwest’s air, water and wildlife protections. Decisions regarding the future of the region are going to be made over the next few months and years and we need your help. You need to make your voice heard on this issue, and if you live in Oregon or Washington you’re going to get your chance soon: there will be hearings and other opportunities to speak out against these destructive projects. In the meantime, visit Power Past Coal to find out how to make a difference, and send a message to your member of Congress to protect endangered Orcas and other Northwest wildlife.

Please stay tuned for a comprehensive report NWF will be publishing at the end of the month on how Big Coal’s export plans threaten salmon and other crucial species in the Pacific Northwest. I will post more details on my blog as we get closer to the release date.

Take Action Help us stop Big Coal’s march through crucial ecosystems like the Columbia River and Puget Sound. Speak up now to protect Orcas and other wildlife in the Pacific Northwest!