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I am re-publishing this post that originally went up in the wee hours of Friday morning.

Indian Tribes in the Northwest have added their voices to those calling for a more comprehensive analysis of the environmental impacts for the proposed coal export ports for the Pacific Northwest.


Tribes Of The Northwest Say ‘No Short Cuts’ For Coal Export Proposals

Dozens of Indian Tribes from around the Northwest came together Thursday to call for a full environmental analysis of proposals to export coal from up to five ports in Oregon and Washington.

The 57 tribes hammered out their position At a convention hosted by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indians

Prominent tribal leaders voiced concerns about the health, safety and environmental impacts of exporting coal from Montana and Wyoming through the Northwest.

The Northwest tribes have joined environmental groups in calling for a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement of each of the terminals. That would take a broader look at the effects of increased rail traffic through tribal lands and communities all along the route of the coal trains, instead of just reviewing each terminal on an individual basis.
The Tribes along with a collection of environmental groups face a lavishly funded media campaign now underway to create support for the coal ports. The pro-Coal ad blitz has taken the place of ads for the presidential race in the Northwest where we have no swing states. The pro Coal propaganda has been bombarding Northwest airwaves for two months now. See: Professor compares exporting coal to exporting firewood ~ Big Coal launches astroturf ad blitz in NW

Industries gear up for the epic fight over NW coal ports

Citizens interested in the Gateway Pacific Terminal, which under current plans will serve primarily to export coal to Asia, may weigh in until Jan. 21 in a variety of manners.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington Department of Ecology, and Whatcom County are jointly conducting the Environmental Impact Statement process.  They hope to publish a draft EIS in 2014
Bellingham will lead off the scoping public hearings on Saturday, Oct. 27, and the four-hour event will test a new hearings format. The remainder of the meetings, as announced by Ecology, include: Friday Harbor, Nov. 3; Mount Vernon, Nov. 5; Seattle, Nov. 13; Ferndale, Nov. 29; Spokane, Dec. 4 and Vancouver, Dec. 12.
The railroad's history, however, has been to pay no more than the 5 percent limit set by federal regulations on projects to mitigate railroad impacts on local communities — such as overpasses and grade crossings, some of which would be in the millions of dollars. Ross Macfarlane, senior advisor at Climate Solutions, asked Rose in an open letter to be specific in terms of aid to localities. Rose has not replied, Macfarlane said this week.

Rose's visit to Vancouver, Seattle, and Bellingham underscores BNSF's deepening concern that rail issues will be brought into the EIS for Cherry Point and Millennium. On May 14, Rose wrote to Gov. Chris Gregoire, assuring her that BNSF was capable of handling the increased freight for coal terminals, and that train-counts were "exaggerated" by critics, and that "virtually no measurable coal dust" would result from the trains. The letter was long on assurances and short on specifics. A similar letter was sent in August to Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws.

Although the railroad is the focus of much opposition to the terminal, other issues may ultimately play a larger role in a final decision. There is great concern in the San Juan Islands about adding nearly a thousand very large coal ships a year to traffic in key shipping lanes. The inclusion of Friday Harbor on the list of community hearings is a direct nod to concerns regarding shipping safety, impact on fisheries, and concern over ballast brought in from Asia.

Lummi Tribe joins the opposition to Whatcom coal port

Lummi leaders announced their opposition at a "Xwe' chi' eXen Gathering" Friday, presided over by Hereditary Chief Bill James and Lummi Nation Chairman Cliff Cultee; about 250 Lummis and guests from the area.  Xwe' chi' eXen is the ancestral name for Cherry Point, a peninsula projecting into Puget Sound adjacent to the Lummi Reservation.

Opposition to the export terminal was emotional and personal for several of the tribal leaders. "This is the home of the ancient ancestors and it's up to us today to protect mother earth," Chief James told the audience after introducing his topic in the Lummi language. "Their spirits are here . . . remember what we are doing to mother earth." Chairman Cultee urged members of the Lummi Nation to work together, but also to work with other tribes dealing with export of coal; "don't just send it someplace else."

Coal clash: Multnomah County to examine health hazards from coal dust and diesel

By Scott Learn, The Oregonian

On dust, opponents note that some coal-burning utilities are challenging the requirements to use surfactants. And railroad testing found an average of 225 pounds of coal lost from per car during a 567-mile trip. For a 135-car train, that's about 15 tons.

Much of that coal dust lands in the rivers these rail routes follow for hundreds of miles throughout the Northwest including the Columbia (where the high winds are notorious). If there's any fishermen out there who aren't worried about these proposed Mega-Ports and all the filthy coal trains snaking along our rivers to reach them, then you should be.
Analysis: Coal fight looms, Keystone-like, over U.S. Northwest

(Reuters) - Call it the Keystone of coal: a regulatory and public relations battle between environmentalists and U.S. coal miners akin to the one that has defined the Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline.

Mining interests won a battle last week when the Army Corps of Engineers called for a quick study of plans to open the first coal port on the west coast at Oregon's Port of Morrow on the Columbia River, a review that will weigh impacts of hauling coal, not burning it.

Coal port skeptics say the ruling is ripe for challenge in the courts and they foresee a drawn-out fight over the review.

"I'm afraid that by choosing to perform a less stringent analysis today, the Corps will ultimately create a longer delay," Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement. Wyden, who is due to lead the Energy and Natural Resources Committee if Democrats hold the Senate, has said he supports a full review of the project and is reserving judgment until it is completed.

Northwest Coal Ports are indeed the next big Keystone XL like fight over climate change and the dirtiest forms of energy production. We Northwesterners have just begun to fight. But we need your help.

Originally posted to Lefty Coaster on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 12:39 PM PDT.

Also republished by Native American Netroots, PacNW Kossacks, and PDX Metro.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for reading (25+ / 0-)

    "We don't need someone who can think. We need someone with enough digits to hold a pen." ~ Grover Norquist

    by Lefty Coaster on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 12:39:36 PM PDT

  •  This is new to me (6+ / 0-)

    I think the re-posting of significantly important and under-noticed Diaries is a service to the community.

    So, thank you.

    A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

    by Pluto on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 01:10:26 PM PDT

  •  No way can the trains not have an impact! (5+ / 0-)

    I'm in AZ now, but my folks live within 70' of the BNSF mainline to Vancouver (and so too, Cherry Point) in Bellingham, and they and their neighbors are not going down without a fight.

    They've lived there for 56 years now, myself for a good chunk as well, and the few coal trains going past on the way to the Roberts Bank coal port are shifting the soil and bank that divides the right of way from their property. It's subsiding, with cracks in the soil and slumping occurring along the bay front from downtown to the west. BNSF knows this, as they have been out to look at neighbor's soil slumps to make sure the tracks aren't threatened. More trains will simply accelerate this process, and both homes and the tracks themselves could be subject to severe slides.

    The railroad's impact has to be taken into account in any EIS; there is no way it will not impact living and property along the right of way.

    Bellingham's mayor knows this too, personally: she lives about 1/4 mile west of my parents, along the same tracks.

    •  I live up the line to the east (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lefty Coaster, KenBee

      I have a vacant lot between my house and the tracks. Given that They have only 1 track running between Vancouver and Washougal the trains are currently running every 30 minutes 1 direction or the other from 4 am to 3 am with 1 hour break. How pray tell do they intend to put 12 to 20 more trains on the track? I think there is something they are keeping from us don't you?

      It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is not what he has -Henry Ward Beecher

      by PSWaterspirit on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 01:38:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  They most likely are. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        James Wells, KenBee

        I'd bet that they know they will be serving only one coal port, not the three or four that are being planned now.

        If the traffic density on the Columbia is that high already, they'll have trouble fitting in the predicted numbers of new trains for sure. IIRC, the number they have given for the Gateway Pacific coal terminal at Cherry Point is 9 each way, every day, at maximum capacity.

        If all the ports are built, that would be 36 coal trains a day above the current number. I don't think the Pasco to Vancouver line can handle that many without severe problems arising. Imagine a nice January Columbia Gorge ice storm messing it all up or a good old fashioned train wreck. Trains would be backed up all the way to Wyoming...

        Full disclosure: I lived in Vancouver for a few years while working in PDX, so I know what the weather is like...

        •  All big coal companies each are building own ports (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          and in one case a coal company is planning two of them. Making mutable ports much more likely.  

          "We don't need someone who can think. We need someone with enough digits to hold a pen." ~ Grover Norquist

          by Lefty Coaster on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 06:22:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Please add your public comments on the scope (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster, forgore, KenBee

    of the EIS for this project.

    Here's the agency site.  Choose the menu item Get Involved / Submit a Comment.

    You can see comments already submitted by choosing Get Involved / View Comments.

  •  Let's keep crushing the pollutocrats in this poll (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster, KenBee

    At Bellingham Business Journal.

    Current results show 14% in favor of GPT, 83% opposed.  Pile on!

  •  This makes me feel better (5+ / 0-)

    The tribes have been my very real heroes in past fights. The people that have spoken for the various nations over the years from local hearing to before congress have all been very smart, eloquent and direct. They usually prevail as well.

    Unfortunately I have skin in this game in a big way. I am one of many who stands to lose their house if the railroads gorge line is expanded. At the very least I will lose most of my property value if the coal comes through. I am a widow with very modest income I do not see this doing anything but destroying everything for me.

    Here are a few railroad coal facts from the front row seat.

    The sprays don't work so well. The powers that be know this because instead of coming into the neighborhood which is down wind from the tracks to test the air they are doing so on the other side of the tracks which is upwind from prevailing.

    18 people both children and adults who live in this area and near the tracks have had their first asthma attack ever in the last three mouths. The sprays themselves may be a health issue.

    As a native of the Northwest I wish to inform you who have not had previous experience when big industry and our federal government come to town. Our state, our lives, and our economy are disposable to them if they think they can make money. When they come promising jobs be very afraid. The last time it costs us thousands of jobs in return we got 250.

    There is a good reason we in Washington don't think much of the other Washington. Here is to fighting the good fight with the tribes on our side I once again have hope that all is not lost.

    It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is not what he has -Henry Ward Beecher

    by PSWaterspirit on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 02:10:44 PM PDT

  •  I was push polled a couple days ago by (5+ / 0-)

    "Central Research" obviously working for the coal side.  If someone wants to debrief, message me.

    This machine kills fascists!

    by Zotz on Sun Sep 30, 2012 at 02:14:16 PM PDT

  •  please note (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Coaster, PSWaterspirit, KenBee

    The Port of Morrow proposal may be getting a less stringent environmental review from the Corps, but that scheme would have at least 200 miles less train traffic than the other proposed shipping docks.

    Coal would depart on covered barges from the Port of Morrow, which is 200 miles east of the Pacific Ocean on the Columbia River, while all the other proposals would essentially haul the coal on unit trains right to terminals on the Pacific Ocean's edge.

    If the Port of Morrow gets approved first, its likely these other plans will get scuttled since there may not be enough demand for to support all 5 terminals.

  •  Why can't they use the CA ports? (0+ / 0-)

    And isn't there something they can do to keep all that coal dust from disappearing into the air during the trip?

    "Mistress of the Topaz" is now available in paperback! Link here:

    by Kimball Cross on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 07:20:40 AM PDT

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