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Coal’s Hollow Promises To Northwest Communities

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View David Lawlor's blog posts
08 February 2012, 6:26 AM
Existing coal terminals illustrate what’s at stake in Washington and Oregon

Each time a new coal export terminal is proposed at a Pacific Northwest port, industry promises to take appropriate measures to protect the surrounding environment and community from the terminal’s inherent pollution. The harmful effects of coal dust blowing into communities from enormous coal piles and trains carrying coal in open boxcars while spewing coal dust will be mitigated, terminal investors tell the public. All environmental and health issues will be taken care of, the project’s backers’ contend—there’s nothing to worry about, just let industry handle everything.

But actions speak louder than words. Case in point: Australia.

In today’s Sightline Daily, Eric de Place looks at the pollution generated by coal export terminals in Australia, the world’s leading exporter of coal. In his piece, de Place quotes a report prepared by the coal transport industry describing the problem:

 Across Australia, dust from trains carrying coal and iron ore is a persistent problem. For residents next to a rail track in the Bowen Basin or Hunter Valley it can, on the worst days, mean dust obscuring windows, dirtying washing and penetrating homes.

Residents near Gladstone Port in southern Australia report having to wipe down all home surfaces at least once daily to remove coal dust that drifts over from a nearby coal export terminal.

Closer to home, the coal export facility in Seward, Alaska is notorious for polluting the nearby community and its environment with blowing coal dust. On bad days in Seward when coal dust lingers in a cloud over the town, visibility is reduced considerably. Aside from the coal dust, coal conveyor belts frequently drop chunks of coal into the bay. These images from Seward tell the story.

And the situation is the same at dirty, polluting coal export terminals at Point Roberts and Prince Rupert in British Columbia.

These existing sites warn about what is at stake in the Pacific Northwest’s struggle against the development of coal terminals.

There are now five potential coal export projects being discussed at ports in Washington and Oregon. Our legal team has already dealt a blow to the proposed terminal at Longview, Washington, and has filed a challenge to a massive dredging project proposed for Coos Bay, Oregon in preparation for a coal export terminal. But with new proposals for terminals in the Pacific Northwest popping up every few months during the past year, the fight is far from over.

Thanks, David.I have no idea why all those links were borken, but they should be fixed now. Two notes:** The LA Business Journal article that was formerly at is now at** There are actually links to four different LA Times articles. Each of them is a worth a read.

What an interesting post, thanks for the comment as well I can see where your coming from but I jst don't know!

you are an idiot. 42 % of the electricity in Oregon is produced by coal out side the state. Do You own a house? Is it heated by electricity? You have electric lights and appliances? Thinking of buying an electric car? Well I suggest the we cut the coal powered electricity to the states of Oregon Washington and California for 1 month. And see if you get by alright. You have no grip on reality, we are an industrial nation built by the hard work of real men and women that make up the majority of america. (the middle class) It is groups and people like you that have greatly contributed to this recession. In the 80's your type of people shut down the logging industry in Oregon and Washington. Thousands of people out of work mills closed towns died and are still dying and schools were the biggest losers as the money to fund them dried up. But pat yourself on the back you saved a dying forest. The trees are rotting and just waiting to be blown down. Now Coal is the great issue of the day. You are going to save us from our selves. Let us make sure that there are no industry jobs in Oregon that is a good start. Make sure this is nothing for Washington as well. We all ready cannot have those kind of jobs in California. Now that is done The industry will just go around. We will make sure that Mexico and Canada have the jobs that Americans could of had. While we are saving everything lets us be sure that we do not manufacture anything in america either. Oh that's right you have already chased most manufacturing out of America already no wonder the majority is angry and I lay the blame on you and your group and those like you. There is however room in the middle for everyone to get along I just do not believe your kind of people have the sense it takes to get there. If you read this you used some more of that awful coal fired energy. No such thing as a free lunch, you ought to give that some thought.

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