Residents of Longview, Wash., can exhale a sigh of relief today, secure in the knowledge that their health will not be jeopardized by a coal shipping terminal. Australian-based Ambre Energy and its subsidiary Millennium Bulk Logistics announced this week that the companies are withdrawing a permit application to construct a coal export facility in Longview on the shores of the Columbia River. Earthjustice played a leading role in opposing the terminal and informing the public about the environmentally harmful project.
Millennium had proposed building what would have been the first West Coast port in the United States to transport coal—the largest source of carbon pollution—across the Pacific Ocean. The coal, sourced from mines in Wyoming and Montana, would have been shipped to China to fuel that nation’s coal-fired power plants. In its permit application to Cowlitz County, Millennium said it planned to ship about 6 million tons of coal annually from the proposed terminal. But court records reviewed by Earthjustice attorneys revealed that the company planned to boost the annual shipping capacity of the terminal from about 6 million tons to a staggering 80 million tons.
Revelations of Millennium’s deception were widely reported by Northwest news media outlets and even The New York Times covered the story. After the project’s deceitful roots were exposed, sentiment built in opposition to the terminal. The prospect of pollution from the site endangering the health of Longview’s citizens also did little to garner support.
While stopping the Longview project is a significant victory, the coal industry still desires to establish a coal shipping terminal on America’s West Coast. As China’s economy continues to modernize, interest is growing among the industry’s major players, such as Arch Coal and Peabody Energy, in shipping coal to the world’s most populated country. A similar coal export facility was proposed at the Port of Tacoma late last year, but port officials rejected the project. Talks are currently underway about a possible coal export facility in Bellingham, Wash., near the Canadian border.
Earthjustice attorneys continue to engage in strategic litigation to level the playing field between polluting energy sources such as coal, and clean sources such as wind and solar. By using the law and the courts to force the coal industry to internalize the full cost of coal’s dirty life cycle, cleaner energy sources become economically competitive, decreasing the demand for coal. This big picture approach means that, over time, the appeal of constructing a coal shipping terminal on America’s West Coast will lose much of its luster.