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Challenging Federal Financing of Coal Exports

The CSX coal export and processing facility in Baltimore, MD. Neighboring communities already suffer from air and noise pollution generated by the rail traffic and facility operations.

The CSX coal export and processing facility in Baltimore, MD. Neighboring communities already suffer from air and noise pollution generated by the rail traffic and facility operations.

Imagery (c) 2014 Google

What's at Stake

The U.S. government approved financial support for coal exports without considering either the environmental impacts on communities near coal export facilities or the climate change impacts of locking the world into increased dependence on dirty fossil fuels.

Case Overview

While U.S. coal consumption has declined gradually over the past 10 years, U.S. coal exports have risen. The array of air, water, safety, health, biodiversity, and other impacts on local communities and ecosystems—which face a chain reaction of increased mining, rail traffic, and port activity—remains woefully unaddressed by state and federal regulators. In addition, the federal financing of coal exports undermines President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, announced in 2013. An important plank of that plan was to end U.S. public support—U.S. taxpayer support—for the construction of overseas coal-fired power plants.

Earthjustice, on behalf of local and national environmental groups, has filed the first-ever lawsuit challenging the federal government’s financing for the export of Appalachian coal from the United States. The groups charge that the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) violated federal law by providing a $90 million loan guarantee to Xcoal Energy & Resources for coal exports without reviewing the environmental impacts of those exports as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. According to Ex-Im Bank, the taxpayer-backed financing, approved on May 24, 2012, will help leverage a billion dollars in exports of coal mined in Appalachia. The coal will be transported by rail to ports in Baltimore, Maryland and Norfolk, Virginia and shipped to buyers in Japan, South Korea, China and Italy.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to order Ex-Im Bank to prepare an environmental impact statement for the Xcoal loan guarantee. If successful, the case could also require the agency to conduct environmental review of future coal export projects it considers financing.

Earthjustice is representing Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Center for International Environmental Law, Friends of the Earth, Pacific Environment, Sierra Club and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

Case ID

2427

Related Features

The Costs of Coal Exports: Personal Stories

Communities across the country are bearing the costs of our dependence on coal. With domestic demand for coal in the United States sharply declining, coal companies are determined to ship as much coal as possible to China and other emerging Asian economies. Proposed new and expanded coal export terminals are a threat to public health, with enormous piles of coal and constant noise and dust, as the trains bringing the coal to the terminals generate huge volumes of toxic dust and degrade the quality of life for hundreds of communities along their path.

It Takes A Sleuth

Attorney Jan Hasselman stopped a coal scheme by mining industry documents. Read a Q&A interview with Jan, and learn about the coal industry's plans for coal export facilities up and down the West Coast that would eventually export tens of millions of tons per year

Case Updates

August 13, 2013 | Blog Post

As Coal Exports, Its Dark Legacy Stays Home

The use of coal in the U.S. has declined over the past few years, and orders for new plants are being cancelled at an increasing rate, owing to pressure from Earthjustice and others and competition from cheaper natural gas.

August 6, 2013 | In the News: The State Journal

Lawsuit challenges federal financing of coal exports

A coalition of environmental groups is challenging the federal government’s financing of the export of Appalachian coal to overseas markets by filing a lawsuit against the U.S Export-Import Bank, known familiarly as Ex-Im Bank. The groups, which are represented by Earthjustice, claim that Ex-Im Bank violated federal law by providing a $90 million loan guarantee to Xcoal Energy & Resources without reviewing the environmental impacts as required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).