Set in the pristine wilderness and charming communities of the Pacific Northwest, Momenta shows us the potentially catastrophic future for some of America's most treasured real estate. But it also provides hope and shows that a green and sustainable future is not only possible these communities, but that it's already happening.
Momenta tells the story of the Powder River Basin, an area that straddles the Montana and Wyoming border and is home to one of the biggest coal deposits in the world. Currently, 18 trains, all a mile-and-a-half long, haul coal from these deposits to seaports in Oregon and Washington each day, snaking through National Parks and clogging major arteries in communities throughout the region. These trains pose major environmental and health risks to the cities they pass through, with each train spilling up to 31 tons of coal and coal dust during their journey. And things could get much worse for these communities.
As the U.S. weans itself off coal-fired power plants, demand for coal in Asia continues to rise. Major coal companies are proposing to build new deepwater ports on the Pacific coast in order to reach these Asian markets, significantly increasing production in the Powder River Basin.
Andy Miller, one of Momenta's co-directors, described the pressure that U.S. coal companies face to get their product to market. "The U.S. coal market is flattening, and if they can't find international markets to ship to, it'll close."
The construction of these seaports will dramatically effect the landscape of the Pacific Northwest, more than doubling train traffic and significantly altering the environment. The proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal in Cherry Point, Washington, one of the major seaports up for construction, would ravage pristine Washington coastline, as well as be rife for shipping disaster due to the tight turns and congested navigation required.