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I think some of the most beautiful mountains, rivers and people can be found in the pacific northwest.  So I was alarmed to hear about the new plans to turn many of the most beautiful parts or Oregon and Washington into corridors for the shipment of massive amounts of coal to the coast for sale, transport, and use in China and India.

Big Coal-- I mean Clean Coal-- is selling this as a jobs creator, but in reality there are very few jobs at all, and instead many harmful environmental downsides if they start using the rail lines and rivers to get their coal to the international market.

Not that long ago there were idealists who dreamt that the northwest could become Ecotopia.  Today Big Coal has dreams that it could become their Coaltopia.

One good place to read more about this is a recent piece in the High Country News--

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Thu Aug 09, 2012 at 03:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Comics.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I am already fighting the coal trains here in (14+ / 0-)

    Spokane, where a TON of trains come through every day already. When I heard there could be as many as 50-60 additional trains coming thru, that we in some cases from 1- 1 1/2 miles long, I immediately became concerned about the coal dust factor and the additional environmental risks. Hell no, no coal for me. I am engaged.

  •  Thanks goes in part to Gov. Brian Schweitzer (9+ / 0-)

    Counterpunch: Montana’s “Clean Coal” Governor

    It is difficult to confront the real, burgeoning threat of climate change when Montana’s own leading Democrat, Governor Schweitzer, believes that coal can burn clean.

    Dubbed the “Coal Cowboy” by CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Schweitzer has been everything but critical of the industry and is a vocal proponent of “coal-to-liquid” technology. While using coal to make fuel may reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, critics are unconvinced that coal-to-liquids could ever combat global warming.


    Schweitzer has made quite a name for himself in pro-coal energy circles, traveling around the country promoting “clean-coal” technology in speeches and presentations. The Montana governor has even appeared on several national television shows, even landing a prime-time spot at the Democratic National Convention in 2008 to promote his coal-intensive energy vision.


    A portion of the coal mined in Montana will be shipped through West Coast ports over to the exploding Asian markets that are increasingly burning coal to produce energy, but are lower in supplies than the US.

    For the climate change movement to succeed in halting exports to Asia, it seems vital that their fight sprouts in Montana’s capital to confront Governor Schweitzer and his pro-coal industry posturing.

  •  Meh, it's not so bad (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    litho, Bob Love

    I work in Newport News, VA, near the coal piers at the coal shipping terminal.

    It's not like it's EVERY day that you can smell it, or that your car gets coal dust ALL the time.

    There are good jobs with it, especially for Norfolk Southern Railroad, which transports the coal to the terminal.  Hey, they've only been sued 5 times this year by the DOL and OSHA for violation of safety regulations and firing workers who were injured on the job. I mean, good jobs are good jobs, what's a few limbs lost between friends?

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

    by absdoggy on Thu Aug 09, 2012 at 03:12:29 PM PDT

  •  quick read and a question (0+ / 0-)

      Feel free to correct - but as this starts in MT coal fields.  Anyone know if both  MT Senate Candidates for this?  If not, is it a wedge issue.

        Way back when, I as a non-believer, even thought the Pacific North West could be "god's country".  

  •  This is the next huge fight in the USA (8+ / 0-)

    And the pacific northwest has some pretty serious activists.

    It will get intense.

    Luckily, there will be so few jobs that come to real communities exporting coal, it will difficult to get any public traction on the coast. This is about making coal barons rich.

    Coal is safely sequestered carbon. It should stay in the ground.

    "Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed." -- Vaclav Havel

    by greendem on Thu Aug 09, 2012 at 03:14:08 PM PDT

  •  Fighting Goliath (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kbman, Bob Love, aliasalias

    I would recommend seeing fighting goliath, a film with Robert Redford that documents the damage of coal, beyond just mining and burning.  I saw it at a presentation with then mayor Bill White, who would have been Texas governor if rural texans cared more about fiscal responsibility and preserving the creation than they did about maintaining a hemogony of false christiandom.  In any case it is realy good and effectively counters the assumption that we must have coal to live.  In particular White reduced the city of Houston electricity bill while increasing use of alternative fuels.

  •  Rep McDermot proposed a bill to force (5+ / 0-)

    the Coal PRODUCERS to pay a $10/ton tax to a fund for eventual clean up and accident clean up to pass it thru the PNW to ports to China.

    "Death is the winner in any war." - Nightwish/Imaginareum/Song of myself.

    by doingbusinessas on Thu Aug 09, 2012 at 03:16:25 PM PDT

  •  Greenwashing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Here's the way to message it:

    Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
    ¡Boycott Arizona!

    by litho on Thu Aug 09, 2012 at 03:16:57 PM PDT

  •  Can we at least invest our own resources... (0+ / 0-)

    ... in our own frickin country?

    Is putting American interests first in our domestic decisionmaking really too much to ask anymore?

    "We see things not as they are, but as we are." - John Milton

    by Jasonhouse on Thu Aug 09, 2012 at 03:21:22 PM PDT

  •  They've started already. I passed under a rail- (0+ / 0-)

    road trestle this weekend, with lots of cars filled with coal.

    Wish us luck.

  •  they still exist. coal will be Earth First target (0+ / 0-)
    Not that long ago there were idealists who dreamt that the northwest could become Ecotopia
    "Eppur si muove" (still it moves)

    Präsidentenelf-maßschach"Nous sommes un groupuscule" (-9.50; -7.03) "Ensanguining the skies...Falls the remorseful day".政治委员, 政委‽ Warning - some snark above ‽

    by annieli on Thu Aug 09, 2012 at 03:31:51 PM PDT

  •  How the hell can we stop this thing? (0+ / 0-)

    There's so much money to be made. Does anyone really believe we can get even one state legislature to block the expansion of coal exports? On what basis could they legally do so as it's the Feds that govern interstate commerce?

    I will contact my state reps but they're Seattle liberals so I have little doubt there's already a strategy in place to ignore their consituents on this.

    •  They claim now that they spray the coal to seal (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      aliasalias, princesspat

      it when it leaves the pit mine for ~1,000 mile trip. However, it still loses many hundred pounds in transit.
      They will not cover the trains.

      "There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats ..." - Kenneth Grahame -

      by RonK on Thu Aug 09, 2012 at 04:29:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  that's the story put out by the coal industry (0+ / 0-)

        yet no one in the media asks the simple question of if they do spray it with some bonding agent how do we know it worked ? Hint, to my knowledge (and experience) there are no inspections beyond the point of application and arrival. I've asked that question of a person representing coal's interests at a public hearing, Mr. Cole (no joke), and he did admit there was no verification system...but one was planned!

        I was a brakeman for Canadian Pacific in the late 70's until the early 80's, and in my last two years I worked primarily out of that coal terminal/dump south of Vancouver at Roberts Bank. I never knew until I talked to Mr. Cole that the railroad had (allegedly) sprayed the coal loads during the time I was working and fwiw I did tell him it was news to me.
        From the perspective of someone that was riding the caboose behind over a hundred cars of coal on regular basis I can say that if they did spray it with anything it didn't work, and I know that there was no inspection of anything when we pulled the loads into the terminal. The train just got spotted in the dumper and one guy in a little booth took over dumping the entire train, one guy sending a radio signal to the lead engine and moving the train ahead one car at a time...all by himself (train crew is dismissed upon spotting the train).Lots of jobs eh ? Plus that was in the early '80's and rumor has it technology has been greatly advanced.

        Also, from the caboose you are in the draft looking down into the open coal cars so you keep the windows closed (you still smell it) to keep out the dust (unless it was a raining or snowing) and if the engineer gave the cars a good jerk you would see the puffs of coal dust.

        Also,for those that argue that the dust that will blow away is gone within 'x' amount of miles all I can say is that that is nonsense ,our crew dealt with it all the way into the final destination and we got the train from a crew about 150 miles up Fraser Canyon (North Bend, not a town) from a crew from Kamloops that got it from a crew from Revelstoke that got it from Cranbrook area of eastern BC or from Alberta.

        In case some hasn't posted this down thread I suggest the link Coal Train Facts...

        without the ants the rainforest dies

        by aliasalias on Thu Aug 09, 2012 at 09:31:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  IF nothing else, covering the trains would be nice (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That's not too much to ask, is it?

    After all, it's not like someone's gotta shove the stuff into a steam engine's furnace or anything.

    But apparently, it is.

  •  Who owns the Coal in the West? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Has any one ever taken a hard look at how much the Mormon Church has invested in coal mines?  Given their history (COAL MINING IN UTAH) in Utah and the surrounding states, it would not be surprising to find it is significant.   I got to wondering about this after Romney came out against the wind tax credits.  His position doesn't really make much political sense, especially given the significance of Iowa.  Who knows, but it might well be worth investigating.  

    The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones! - John Maynard Keynes

    by Do Something on Thu Aug 09, 2012 at 04:03:55 PM PDT

  •  This is not just starting to send coal, it is (4+ / 0-)

    already going full speed moving Montana/Wyoming coal through our town. The current situation is that if a new port facility is approved, coal trains coming though our community will more than double what they are now. We'll have an additional 18 trains (9 full of coal) each day. Now they go British Columbia, just over the border from us. They want to build another port near us.

     They claim new jobs but the local estimates are there will be at best a handful after construction of the facility at Cherry Point in Whatcom county.

    The company that will build the facility is an international group that builds ports all over the world. However they had local beginnings and thus are touted here as being local and "... would never do anything to harm our  beautiful environment" or so said a recent letter to the editor. They will bring in their own people and hire a few laborers locally for two years, max.

    Among the various groups in Bellingham who oppose the facility are ~ 180 local physicians. The biggest problem we have in fighting this is that the City and its citizens have no formal voice in the decision of whether or not to site the facility. The County Council does have voice and it and the county exec. are all conservatives! We are screwed.

    "There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats ..." - Kenneth Grahame -

    by RonK on Thu Aug 09, 2012 at 04:26:47 PM PDT

  •  this fight is not over (0+ / 0-)

    The proposed Cherry Point Gateway Pacific coal export terminal will be a transfer station for up to 48 million tons of coal per year – dumped from trains into 90 foot piles and then loaded onto enormous, polluting freighters and shipped across the Pacific Ocean to provide power in China.
    In addition to the coal trains already traversing our city daily on their way to British Columbia, 18 mile and a half long coal trains will noisily rumble back and forth daily (9 uncovered, filled with coal and 9 returning empty), up and down our coastline and through the heart of our city and proposed waterfront development throughout the day and night.
    The truth about jobs at the proposed coal terminal: “213 jobs at buildout” – According to Gateway Pacific terminal’s owner. (June, 2011 – “Gateway Pacific Terminal Preliminary Traffic Summary”, reported to Whatcom County Engineering Services).
    Burning coal in 1 typical plant emits 3.7 million tons of CO2, the primary human cause of global warning – as much CO2 as cutting down 161 million trees. (Union of Concerned Scientists)
    The Pacific Northwest receives fallout of a shocking 1,400 tons of air-born mercury per year, mostly from burning coal for electricity in China (Mt. Bachelor Observatory)
    Compelling three-minute film describes plans to export dirty U.S. coal to Asia. Local voices from Longview, Bellingham, Hood River, and Portland share how coal trains and terminals will harm their communities.

    without the ants the rainforest dies

    by aliasalias on Thu Aug 09, 2012 at 09:44:14 PM PDT

  •  action item please sign the petition (0+ / 0-)

    'clean coal' is an oxymoron.

    Tell the Obama campaign: Drop your cynical pro-coal ad!

     Part of leadership is having the courage to tell the truth even when it's difficult.

     And right now we need leadership from President Obama to overturn a decision by his campaign to run radio ads in Ohio which promote coal and incredibly actually criticize Mitt Romney for saying (when he was a different person, in 2003) that the pollution from coal plants kills people.1

     The reality is that Romney's campaign is being buoyed by a massive injection of cash from fossil fuel polluters like the Koch brothers. And he's pulling his pro-coal talking points straight from the Tea Party. So an ad suggesting that President Obama is more coal-loving than Romney isn't just cynical, it's misleading.

    Tell the Obama campaign: Drop your cynical pro-coal ad.

     The ad reflects clear political pressure President Obama is feeling in swing states like Ohio.

    (all emphasis mine)

    without the ants the rainforest dies

    by aliasalias on Thu Aug 09, 2012 at 09:49:22 PM PDT

  •  capitalism is more cleaner and less wasteful... (0+ / 0-)

    capitalism is more cleaner and less wasteful than socialism.  which cities are the most polluted?  poorest?  (socialistic)

    capitalism is more green because they are accountable to others.  state run endevours are not.  

    capitalism is less wasteful.  less waste, less profit.

    if you really want a cleaner world with everyone having more support capitalism all the way.

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