Big Coal's Stocking Is Full of Coal
Big Coal is on Santa's naughty list and faces massive opposition in the Pacific Northwest after trying to force through its coal export plan up and down the Washington and Oregon coast. The holiday season has wrapped up what has been a memorable year for the snowballing grassroots opposition that is determined to stop Big Coal in its tracks.
A series of public hearings this past year united people from all walks of life -- doctors, business owners, faith leaders, farmers, conservationists, elected officials, Native American representatives, and even kids -- in opposition to a plan that would allow millions of tons of coal to be hauled through communities along Pacific Northwest rail lines each year en route to the coast. Peabody Coal alone wants to ship 48 million tons of coal each year to East Asia. That would mean a huge surge in coal trains that would clog the railways and leave coal dust on surrounding communities and farms.
The most recent hearing in Seattle last week drew 2,300 people, with nearly everyone in attendance wearing red t-shirts in solidarity against coal trains. The hearing, which concerned a proposed export facility in Cherry Point, took place at the Washington State Convention Center after it was determined that the nearby community college would be too small.
"The Sierra Club knocked on 10,000 doors and made 10,000 phone calls. Hundreds of volunteers made this happen and they were funneled through the highly effective team structure that the Club created in communities up and down the rail lines," says Robin Everett, Sierra Club Beyond Coal organizer.
The huge turnout followed two wildly successful hearings in Vancouver, Washington, and Spokane. Media coverage was abundant.
"Speakers worried about health risks from diesel fumes and coal dust or from the pollutants that would waft across the Pacific Ocean when the coal was burned in China, India or some place else," reports the Seattle Times. "A Muslim woman spoke about how her faith urged care for the planet. A cowboy who drove straight from his Montana ranch complained about having to drive so far to be heard. One speaker sang a dirge, another banged a drum and a group of grandmothers testified in jingles."
The Beyond Coal campaign and its coalition leaders raised the standard for what can be done to mobilize against dirty energy. Future generations may look back at 2012 as the year the grassroots movement against coal really turned the tables. 2013 will probably be no different. Public testimony will continue to be collected by Whatcom County officials, the state of Washington, and the Army Corps of Engineers until mid-January before the environmental review process begins.
"Our team built a movement in the state and in the region. It is a remarkable achievement won through hard, focused, persistent work within a winning strategy," says Bill Corcoran, said Regional Beyond Coal Director. "I look forward to seeing what the team comes up with next to help focus this amazing network of local leaders on targeted officials who can stop these proposed export terminals. Together, they and we will win a crucial victory to stem climate disruption and build out a clean energy economy rather than a filthy coal export scheme."
Images: 1st and last photo: Oregon courtesy Power Past Coal; 2nd photo: Paul Anderson; 3rd and 4th photo courtesy Robin Everett.
-- Brian Foley