Huge Victory in Oregon Builds Momentum Against Coal
Energy company Kinder Morgan announced last week that it is ditching plans to export 30 million tons of coal through the Port of St. Helens, Oregon -- a move that further galvanizes the grassroots movement in the Pacific Northwest that is keeping Big Coal out.
"Three down, three to go!" exclaimed Sierra Club Organizer Laura Stevens. "This proposal would have meant a dozen mile-and-a-half-long, dirty, coal-dust spewing trains through the Columbia River Gorge and dozens of other communities every day."
The three remaining sites coal companies have their eye on to build coal-export terminals are in Boardman, Oregon, and Longview and Cherry Point in Washington.
"The announcement came just two days after we packed two hearing rooms in St. Helens to oppose a re-zone that would facilitate coal exports, and the nearby city of Scappoose, where the council voted unanimously to pass a resolution expressing their concerns about the project," Stevens said.
Communities through Washington and Oregon continue to face the prospect of dealing with miles-long trains carrying tens of millions of tons of coal each year -- and bringing its harmful coal dust pollution with them. The coal would then be burned in energy-hungry East Asia, emitting carbon that would rival the infamous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The nightmare scenario has solidified communities across the Pacific Northwest, bringing together a coalition that includes environmental groups, hunters and anglers, farmers, business leaders, mayors and state leaders, faith leaders, and the health community.
"All of us locally involved in this love the Columbia River and our environment here," Darrel Whipple, an organizer with the group Clean Columbia County, said in the Los Angeles Times. "We have concerns about coal dust polluting the river, coal dust polluting the land. We have children and asthma patients who are at risk."
Activists in the Pacific Northwest have already won several battles. Just two months ago, Ambre Energy licked its wounds after the Oregon Department of State Lands tabled a decision on a dredging project for a planned facility at Port of Morrow that would receive nearly 9 million tons of coal a year via train from the Powder River Basin. The state’s decision to delay came two days after hundreds gathered at the state Capitol to demand that Big Coal stay out.
Congratulations to everyone in the Pacific Northwest for this much-deserved victory!
-- Brian Foley