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Quiet Plan to Export U.S. Coal from West Coast

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View Brian Smith's blog posts
17 November 2010, 1:50 PM
Public descends on meeting to expose and oppose

The coal mining industry is developing plans to send massive amounts of U.S. coal to China. The move comes as coal companies see little room for growth domestically as concerns grow over climate impacts and local pollution.

The Australian mining giant Ambre Energy asked a Cowlitz County (WA) commission last night to approve a port project that would allow for the export of 5 million tons of coal annually, mostly to Asia.

Ambre Energy has plans to buy a mine and begin the export of coal from the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana.

Those opposed to Ambre Energy's plan view the project as a beachhead in a larger campaign that would build coal export facilities at numerous sites along the Columbia river and eventually other ports along the West Coast of the United States. At the Tuesday hearing in Cowlitz County, the vast majority of people testifying opposed the project.

Brett VanderHeuvel, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeepers, believes that this situation requires state, rather than local officials, to make the call.

"The State of Washington can and should weigh in on this," VanderHeuvel explained. "We shouldn't leave this decision to local commissioners who are deciding whether to issue a shoreline permit or not. There are huge, regional and even national implications to exporting coal."

"Washington has a choice," said Jan Hasselman, an attorney in Earthjustice's Northwest office, in an interview with KING5-TV. "We can either be leaders in a clean energy future and economy, or we can be the export hub for the western United States for dirty coal to China."

Like several states, Washington state has adopted strong laws intended to limit the risk of climate instability and build a strong regional alternative energy economy. Washington's Governor, Christine Gregoire, has previously been considered a leader on climate issues, but the export plan threatens that role.

Earthjustice will keep you up to date as this situation develops.

While I understand people are hungry for jobs, and want to make some use of an abandoned facility which is an eyesore, to embrace this idea to export coal is shortsighted. These folks need to look at the bigger picture and not just their local economic woes.

hello all, it is astonishing how just months ago when 29 souls lost their lives and 3 other miners came so close to the same fate; the CEO of that mining outfit Blankenship told the congressional leadership about the need of domestic coal for the security of our nation, of course this is just a ruse to sell the murder of God's creation. these dollars would be better spent in building solar power generation plants to harness the 1 kW per square foot of Aussie sunshine, for the future of the planet and not this foolish endevor from another century.
thxs dm

As a citizen of Cowlitz County, I was appalled when I heard of this plan - though I would be just as firmly opposed to it if it were proposed for a different location. It would be an environmental disaster wherever it took place.

I was unable to attend the hearing, or the protests, but I made sure to submit my comments to the Commissioners (and to the Governor). Absolutely terrible idea.

I agree with VanderHeuvel, three guys in a small county shouldn't be making this kind of decision; that's just crazy. While I don't think those three guys are dumb enough to approve this, it shouldn't come to that.

Good folks in Washington and Oregon recently defeated a proposal for a deep water port to import liquefied natural gas from Asia. The dredging for these piers and turning basins for large ships have potential significant adverse impact on endangered Columbia River salmon runs.

The jobs are few. We do not need this in Washington on Oregon.

Listen to the people of Washington and Oregon and do not dredge for new piers and turning basins to import natural gas. The adverse impact on the Columbian River is to great.

This is a trend. In Utah we are fighting a proposal to build the states first strip coal mine - coal that would likely be exported, possibly to Asia. This project would be right beside Bryce Canyon National Park - threatening the legendary quiet, clear air and night skies of this iconic park. More at

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