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Coal’s Hollow Promises To Northwest Communities

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.

Tags:  air, coal, coal exports

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