Red Means Stop for Big Coal Exports in the Pacific Northwest
Big Coal is beginning to realize the power of numbers.
Last week, 1,000 people, dead-set on opposing plans to use the Washington coast as a launching point for Big Coal exports, filled the small town of Mount Vernon in solidarity. It was the third in a series of public hearings concerning the environmental review process and the issue of hauling tens of millions of tons of coal each year through Washington communities, farmlands, and natural landscapes.
"This is the result of nearly a year-and-a-half of work with local residents led by the Sierra Club. Last summer, we held our very first volunteer meeting at a room rented at the local train depot. Over 50 people attended that meeting," said Robin Everett of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.
Anti-coal activists, sporting red t-shirts, flooded the room. Pro-coal people wore green. The difference couldn't be clearer."If red means stop and green means go, the sentiment at Monday's public comment meeting on the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal was in big, bold, capital letters: 'STOP,'" wrote The Skagit Valley Herald.
Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Exports Campaign is part of the Power Past Coal Coalition, made up of health, environmental, faith, community, and business groups.
"One of our most successful teams was the Business Outreach Team, which generated a group of over 200 business to oppose coal exports," Everett said.
In September, the Power Past Coal Coalition launched an ad campaign. Watch:
The turnout for anti-coal rallies has been stellar. Last month, more than 2,000 braved the rain in Bellingham.
"We set out to make this a state-wide and regional fight, and to take into account all the impacts of the proposal, from mine to rail and port to plant," Cesia Kearns, a Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign organizer, said at the Bellingham event. "We've made the scoping hearings a major priority, focusing especially on the first hearing in Bellingham, which has now set the tone for the other hearings."
Photo: Paul K. Anderson.
But there's still a lot of fight left to come. Peabody Coal wants to export 48 million tons of coal each year and use the state of Washington and its communities as a thoroughfare. That would mean a huge surge in coal trains that leave coal dust on surrounding communities and farms -- and affecting a quality of life that makes the beautiful Pacific Northwest unique.
"Exporting all this coal to Asia -- it's more carbon than Keystone. That's how big this is," said Everett.