What You Can Do to Stop the Coal Trains from The STRANGER

This week’s Seattle Stranger offers an excellent detailed discussion of the Northwest’s coal export issue, entitled Stop the Coal Trains, including a section quoted below addressing What You Can Do to Stop the Coal Trains:

Interstate commerce laws prevent local authorities from outright blocking coal trains from passing through their jurisdictions, so the only way to stop the trains is to stop the terminals. But the path to blocking the Gateway Pacific Terminal and other terminal proposals in Longview, Washington, and Boardman, St. Helens, and Coos Bay, Oregon, is murky. Each terminal is being pushed by separate coal interests and each faces its own timeline and permitting process for approval. Opponents fear that if one proposal goes through, the amount of coal they plan on shipping will increase exponentially to meet market demands.

“The coal industry has already lied about the amount of coal they were planning on shipping out of Longview,” says Krista Collard, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club. “When that was discovered, they had to pull permit applications and refile.” A spokesperson for Millennium Bulk Terminals, the organization behind the Longview proposal, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

In order to proceed with the coal terminals, companies must first secure development permits from local county councils, aquatic lease permits from public lands commissioner Peter Goldmark, and approval for the projects from the state Department of Ecology and federal Army Corps of Engineers. The biggest challenge, opponents say, is to orchestrate killing all five of the proposals at once—not just the terminal at Cherry Point.

“It’s not about one entity, it’s about the big picture,” explains Kimberly Larson, a spokeswoman for Climate Solutions, which is working with the Sierra Club and other environmental groups to organize Northwest opposition efforts in both Oregon and Washington. “They’re all in play at the same time, and that’s why it’s important to show the collective resistance across the region. If one goes through, it will affect all of us.” For instance, coal trains headed to Oregon would still trundle through Spokane and the Columbia River Gorge, impacting communities along the way and clogging Washington’s freight rail system. You can help Climate Solutions and the Sierra Club by writing letters opposing the terminals to Commissioner Goldmark (cpl@dnr.wa.gov), the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Washington State Department of Ecology (eisgatewaypacificwa.gov/get-involved/comment), as well as to your state, county, and city representatives.

Protesters already helped kill one coal terminal last summer, slated for Grays Harbor. “After hearing from the community, the terminal said that they wanted to ship friendlier, healthier items than coal out there,” Collard explains.

That’s the sort of victory coal train opponents hope to achieve throughout the Northwest. “We share a vision for a better future,” testified King County executive Dow Constantine at Seattle’s public hearing on the Cherry Point terminal. “Our vision doesn’t include 18 trains a day pulling those coal cars through the heart of Washington. This isn’t just a regional issue; it’s a global issue and a generational issue. In Washington, we have done away with coal-fired plants, but shipping overseas will overwhelm the gains we’ve made here at home.”

A 12-year-old couldn’t have said it any better.

Read the entire Stranger article for a helpful history and more details.


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