Eight hundred people turned out in Spokane on December 4 to the fifth of seven "scoping hearings" across Washington State on the environmental review process for a proposed coal export facility at Cherry Point, 400 railroad miles to the west on the Washington coast.
"Of the 800 people who came to debate the merits of the Gateway Pacific Terminal, I'd estimate at least 700 were opposed," says Crystal Gartner, a Spokane-based organizer for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. "A sea of red 'No Coal Exports' t-shirts dominated the hearing venue."
The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Exports campaign, working as part of the Power Past Coal coalition, has been organizing opposition to the coal export terminal and the vastly increased number of coal trains that would transport coal in open cars from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana to the coast.
Over the past year, Sierra Club volunteers and staff in Spokane have gone door-to-door to hundreds of homes, made phone calls to thousands of local residents, and collected over a thousand petition signatures opposing the coal export terminal in advance of the December 4 hearing.
"Spokane is the choke-point for all rail traffic in the Inland Northwest," Gartner says. More than 60 coal trains a day carrying coal in open cars would pass through the city if the coal export terminals now being proposed are built.