Pacific Port Community Dodges a Coal-Shaped Bullet

Developers have canceled plans to export coal from the Port of Grays Harbor in Washington state, citing other uses for the port that are more economically viable. The project was one of six export facilities in the works in Washington and Oregon and, although Grays Harbor was the smallest of the proposals, its cancellation marks a milestone for the coalition of health groups, conservationists and other citizens concerned about the impacts of shipping hundreds of millions of tons of coal to Asia.

Kassie Rohrbach, NWF’s coal export campaign manager, noted that the groundswell of public opposition has created an environment of investor uncertainty for the coal industry. “Our work to raise public awareness of the environmental and health risks this antiquated fuel source is only beginning,” said Rohrbach. “We won’t stop until all of the proposed projects are off the table.”

RailAmerica, the company behind the proposal, thinks that better opportunities lie elsewhere:

“Over the past year, we have been performing due diligence on that property to evaluate its fit for an export bulk terminal,” [RailAmerica VP Gary] Lewis told the [port] commissioners at their regular monthly meeting. “We spent a lot of money. We spent a lot of time, and unfortunately at this point we believe that there are other uses and other opportunities for that terminal that are much more likely to generate jobs, economic development, tax revenues, (and provide a) general increase in business for the Port and, of course, for RailAmerica and for Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad.”

Grays Harbor on the Pacific Coast is the first of 6 western port proposals to falter. Is more good news on the way? (Map: NWF)
National Wildlife Federation has been working to stop these export projects in their tracks, and recently released a report on how coal shipments would affect salmon and fisheries in the Pacific Northwest. The True Cost of Coal details how the industry’s plans would result in a massive increase in diesel emissions, coal dust in waterways, and direct habitat impacts, all of which would upset the delicate balance of these critical ecosystems and cast a long shadow over the northwest’s fishing industry and recreation.

At least five projects are still in the works in the region, and coal companies are turning to the Gulf Coast and Atlantic ports to keep their profits rolling in. But this news may have a ripple effect across the industry, and the citizens of Grays Harbor have dodged a bullet.

For more, visit

Take ActionSave Orcas and other wildlife from dirty coal! Speak up now to prevent these port projects from moving forward.

Published: August 15, 2012