Coal Export Opposition Dominates Public Hearings

Guest blog post by Michael O’Leary. 

The news media is getting it right. The recent public hearings over coal export proposals are proving that there’s overwhelming opposition to the plans of big energy companies to sell subsidized American fossil fuels overseas to benefit job growth in India, China, and South Korea.

Public Opposition to Coal Exports, Seattle, WA - December, 2012
Public Opposition to Coal Exports, Seattle. NWF Photo by Michael O’Leary.
Members of the National Wildlife Federation are expressing their concern for coal exports because of the toxic pollution, the climate disruption, and the loss of habitat that would be caused if the plans to burn more coal are allowed by federal regulators, and they’re submitting thousands and thousands of written comments in to the public record to make sure that decision makers stay focused on what’s important.

The Wyodak Mine, Gillette, WY - July, 2012
The Wyodak Coal Mine, Gillette, WY. NWF Photo by Michael O’Leary.
In addition to the now expected flurry of online organizing, something surprising is happening, and the press is taking note. Concerned community members are now turning out in droves to show their personal opposition to coal in packed public hearings, often after having to wait for hours just to have one brief chance for their voice to be heard.

The Seattle Times is saying that the opponents of coal exports make up the “vast majority” of Seattle hearing attendees. Oregon Public Broadcasting reported we “dominated” the Vancouver hearing. The Bellingham Herald reported that Whatcomb County attendees were “overwhelmingly” against coal.Sure, we were hard to miss. We made signs. We had stickers. We wore our t-shirts. We’ve done our homework to identify how the mining, transportation, and burning of coal would negatively impact our local communities and the planet as a whole. We were well prepared to make a good showing.

Lummi Nation Council Member Jay Julius Details Coal Export Project Impacts
Lummi Nation Council Member Jay Julius Explains Proposed Coal Export Project Impacts to Xwe’ chi’ eXen (Cherry Point) and the Lummi Xa xalh Xachnging (Sacred Obligation). NWF Photo by Michael O’Leary.
But we’re doing better than good. In fact, we’re outnumbering the coal industry supporters by more than 10 to 1 at these hearings. And it’s increasingly trending in our favor. In Bellingham we packed the high school auditorium. By the time we got to Vancouver we packed a community college auditorium. In both Portland and Seattle, our RSVPs came in so fast, that the hearing organizers were forced to scramble to find larger venues than they had originally booked. We packed the Seattle Convention Center so full so that we maxed out the fire code capacity of two side-by-side halls at the same time.

That said, we’re a long way from successfully protecting our water, wetlands, clean air and climate from coal exports. While coal is on the decline here in the US, overseas consumption is still on the rise. We’ve still got work to do.

Be sure to do your part with the National Wildlife Federation action alerts on this issue, and do join us if you have the opportunity to get involved more personally. Staking your claim to clean air, clean water, and becoming a catalyst for the change to a cleaner global economy never sounded so good. And you might just make the newspapers.

Take ActionProtect Northwest orcas and other wildlife from dirty coal! Speak up against these dangerous coal export proposals.

Michael O’Leary of Portland, Oregon is an Outreach Consultant for National Wildlife Federation working on coal export and renewable energy issues in the Pacific Northwest, where he’s been a political organizer for over 15 years. Michael is a certified cycling instructor and a certifiable bike enthusiast, and can often be found on two wheels, rain or shine.