Coal Exports – Summer 2013 Developments
As you’ve no doubt heard, there is a major proposal to strip mine coal in the Powder River Basin region of Wyoming and Montana, transport it by long, open train cars through cities and towns across the country to the west coast, build terminals to receive the coal and load it onto massive cargo ships bound for China.
Coal companies currently have three proposals to export coal out of Oregon and Washington communities, which would add up to 100 million metric tons of coal a year. Shipping up to 100 million metric tons of coal a year through West Coast would clog our railroads, ports, and roads, risk our families’ health, pollute our air and water, hurt local economies and continue to stoke the climate crisis.
For our guests who have not been able to keep up with all that’s happened recently, here is a recap:
- In late June, despite overwhelming public support and requests from both Oregon and Washington’s governors, the US Army Corp of Engineers decided NOT to conduct an area-wide review of the three coal export projects proposed in the Northwest. Instead, they will review the three terminals separately, and will not directly address some of the opposition’s top concerns. Their reasoning, according to Jennifer Moyer, acting chief of the Corps’ regulatory program: “Many of the activities of concern to the public, such as rail traffic, coal mining, shipping coal outside of US territory, and the ultimate burning of coal overseas, are outside the Corps’ control and responsibility.” We can almost understand that until she goes on to say, “the projects are ‘independent’ and their ‘impacts are not related.” Read the full report on Oregonlive.
- On July 30 the Lummi Nation submitted a formal letter to the Army Corps of Engineers declaring their opposition to the Gateway Pacific coal terminal project. They contend that the proposed project is a violation of their fishing rights treaty, and will have a significant detrimental effect on the Lummi way of Life. This is an extremely important development, because the Army Corp of Engineers has a history of denying permits when there are objections by First Nations tribes. Read more about the impact of the Lummi Nation letter here.
- On July 31 the co-lead agencies in charge of determining the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement for the Gateway Pacific coal export terminal at Cherry Point, WA (Whatcom County, WA State Department of Ecology, US Army Corps of Engineers) reached their determination for the scope of the E.I.S. After reviewing over 124,000 comments from the public, they WILL be taking into consideration the full breadth of threats posed by coal export terminals to the state and beyond. The EIS will include a variety of topics that are critical to islanders, including but not limited to: marine traffic and the increased risk of an oil spill; human health impacts; greenhouse gas emission from burning coal in Asia; and the cumulative impacts of all regional coal export projects. Read the Department of Ecology’s announcement here.
- Also on July 31, SSA Marine, the company that intends to build the Gateway Pacific Terminal, agreed to a court settlement after an 18-month legal battle. In the suit, ReSources for Sustainable Communities charged Pacific International Terminals (owned by SSA Marine) with violating the Clean Water Act and ignoring local and national permitting requirements when it built nearly 5 miles of road, filling or clearing nearly 3 acres of wetlands in the process; they also bulldozed and drilled in a registered Lummi historical site known to contain burial sites at the proposed Cherry Point, WA location. SSA’s own internal documents show that they knew they were breaking the law. Read the ReSources for Sustainable Communities report here.
We believe that stripping the land for a dirty, out-dated energy source, sending it across the country in open coal trains, building terminals to receive the coal along the pristine shores of the Pacific Northwest, and shipping it in gigantic container ships through our waters to China to be burned and pollute the air is a crime against the environment. If you agree, please review the Power Past Coal website to find out what you can do. We ALL need to take action, not just “the activists.”