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Sierra Daily

Dec 10, 2013

Another One Bites the Dust

Coal shipAll that coal and nowhere to go. Last month, my colleague Paul Rauber wrote about the slate of candidates in Whatcom County, Washington, recently elected to defeat a proposed coal-export terminal in the northwest corner of the Evergreen State. Now Lone Star State activists are beaming that a proposed coal export terminal in Corpus Christi has been ditched -- due to a “seriously diminished” international interest in coal, aka music to an anti-coal-activist’s ears.

According to the Port of Corpus Christ (as reported by Climate Progress), “Currently the export coal market has shrunk substantially. The domestic market has seen older coal fired power plants closed with some being refitted to burn natural gas. Wind and solar power driven by regulatory incentives have created additional pressure on coal. The enthusiasm for export terminals among coal producers has diminished.” Climate Progress notes that this is the fourth time this year that a proposed coal export terminal has been canceled; the list includes two proposals in Oregon and another in Corpus Christi.

Three more coal-export proposals in the Pacific Northwest as well as one in Louisiana are still on the table, all with vocal opposition. It turns out that not many Americans want to be at the tail end of a rail line leading from coal mines in the Rocky Mountain states to ocean ports. As noted in a 2012 Sierra Club report on coal-export development in Texas, “According to BNSF, one of the railroad companies involved in transporting coal, an average of 500 pounds of coal dust and chunks can escape from a single loaded rail car in transit. Each coal train contains over 100 rail cars, which means over the course of one trip from Wyoming to Texas, 50,000 pounds, or 25 tons, of coal dust would escape from rail cars onto the ground and possibly into surface and ground water. Coal dust has been linked to chronic bronchitis, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis (pneumoconiosis), and environmental contamination through the leaching of toxic heavy metals.”

“Texans don’t want coal, Gulf states don’t want coal and international markets don’t want it either,” Hal Suter, chair of the Club’s Lone Star Chapter and a Corpus Christi resident, told Public Citizen.

Image by Freezingtime/iStock.

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”

 

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