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Sierra Daily

Mar 17, 2011

The Other China Syndrome

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As a result of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, China has, at least temporarily, suspended permitting of new nuclear plants. The result of this understandable move, according to SustainableBusiness.com:

If China backs away from its ambitious nuclear targets, coal is likely to replace a large portion of the country's nuclear generation target. . . . An executive from Peabody Energy Corporation, one of the largest coal companies in the world, told a conference on Tuesday that coal producers stand to benefit from the disaster in Japan. 

One way Peabody and other coal companies plan to profit is by shipping coal from the Powder River Basin across the Pacific to China (as detailed by Peter Frick-Wright in "Digging a Hole for China" in the current issue of Sierra), where it can be used to manufacture your iPod. ("Proud America, coal-shoveler to the world, a resource colony to feed the Asian industrial machine," writes Bill McKibben in the Los Angeles Times.)

Subsequent to publication it was revealed that Millennium Bulk Terminals, the outfit hoping to build a coal-export facility in Longview, Washington, had been duping local officials regarding the size and scope of their proposed operation. Their application for a permit to build the facility said they planned to export 5 million tons of coal a year, but documents obtained by environmentalists (including the Sierra Club!) trying to stop the deal revealed that they really planned to ship as many as 80 million tons out of the port. 

Now, reports the Los Angeles Times, Millennium has withdrawn its permit request and promises to submit a new, more truthful application--"to show our continued commitment as a good neighbor," in the words of CEO Joe Cannon.

"Millennium was trying to hide the serious public health impacts and traffic congestion caused by thousands of dirty coal trains and a dusty terminal," said Brett VandenHeuvel of the group, Columbia Riverkeeper. "Millennium got caught being dishonest and was forced to withdraw their permit."

This fight ain't over yet. You can follow developments at http://www.sierraclub.org/coal/coalexport.

--Paul Rauber

Photo of Wyoming's Black Thunder mine by Melissa Farlow

 

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