Washington State Coal Export Forums a Hit
The last week of October, the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign held three successful "Coal Hard Truth" forums across Washington State, in Vancouver (above), Edmunds, and Spokane. At issue is a plan by Peabody Energy and Arch Coal to build two new coal export terminals near the cities of Bellingham and Longview, and expand the rail network bringing coal from Wyoming and Montana.
"We turned out more than 300 public officials, community leaders, and concerned citizens to the forums," says Washington Beyond Coal organizer Seth Balhorn (below). "Each city had a dedicated group of a dozen or so volunteer leaders who helped organize and run the events."
The Vancouver forum (above) featured speakers from Columbia Riverkeeper, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Citizens for a Safe Community, Climate Solutions, and representatives from local clean energy developers and the faith community.
In Edmonds, just north of Seattle, a crowd of 120 people turned out at Edmonds Community college to discuss the environmental and health impacts of coal. Sponsored by the Sierra Club and Sustainable Edmonds, the forum drew residents, city council members, a local economic development agency, and Mayor Mike Cooper.
"City Council President Strom Peterson cited increased coal dust pollution, health issues, traffic concerns, and the negative impact that nine additional trains per day would have on the community," says Balhorn. A local doctor also warned that young children and the elderly were especially at risk from the health consequences of particulate pollution.
In Spokane, local Sierra Club activists told a crowd of 60+ that if the proposed terminals are built in Bellingham and Longview, an additional 30-to-60 coal trains will run through Spokane County every day, depositing coal dust in the communities along the rail lines connecting the Powder River Basin with the Pacific Coast. Robin Everett (below) was the key Sierra Club staff organizer for the Spokane forum.
"We'll be scheduling follow-up planning and training workshops with the new activists who attended all three forums," says Balhorn, the staff lead at the Edmonds event.