Coal companies, seeing little future growth domestically, have a new plan: strip-mine coal in Montana and Wyoming, transport it on long coal trains and massive cargo ships through Washington and Oregon, and sell it to Asia.
The Powder River Basin is one of the largest coal reserves in the world, and the easiest gateway to get that strip-mined coal to Asia is through West Coast ports, especially Washington and Oregon.
Currently, the nation’s two largest coal companies, Arch Coal and Peabody, and the Australian-based Ambre Energy, are working on massive coal export terminals at Longview, WA and Cherry Point, north of Bellingham, WA. There are also potential proposals for many other communities, including two along the Columbia River at St. Helens, OR and Boardman, OR and another at Coos Bay, OR. Recently, RailAmerica shelved plans for a coal export terminal at Grays Harbor, WA.
Coal is the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fossil fuel. Being a gateway for coal export would fly in the face of our region’s leadership in the clean energy economy. Shipping up to a hundred million tons of coal a year to Asia through West Coast ports would spread toxic coal dust in dozens of the rail communities, clog our railroads and ports, risk our families’ health, pollute our air and water, and stoke the climate crisis.
We need to power past coal. We can do better, keeping our local economies strong and the places we love intact for our families. We won’t sell the soul of our communities for coal. The costs to our health, quality of life and our home towns are too high.