Plans are in motion to export 170 million tons of coal annually from Wyoming and Montana to Asia, using railroads and waters in Cascadia to do it.
Here is a brief overview of the export terminals proposed for construction in Washington and Oregon, including the estimated number of jobs to be made available, the number of trains running daily, and the current status of each project.
To the multinational corporations pushing for more coal exports (including Kinder Morgan, Peabody Energy, SSA Marine, Ambre Energy, Arch Coal, BNSF Railway, and Union Pacific), the proposed construction of 6 export terminals in Washington and Oregon and concomitant upgrades to railroads in the region would mean profiting from Asia’s increasing demand for coal. To Paul Lumley, a citizen of the Yakama Nation tribe and executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, the construction of Ambre Energy’s proposed Morrow Pacific Project would mean the permanent destruction of tribal fishing sites that he has frequented all his life. To mint farmer Mike Seely, it would mean the end of his family’s farm in Clatskanie, Oregon. To Sloan Nelson, a city councilman and business owner in Rainier, Oregon, the 1,400 railroad cars that would run every day to Kinder Morgan’s proposed Port Westward Project would mean a decline in the local economy, one, he says, the town can’t afford.
According to data compiled by Coal Train Facts, a non-profit organization based in Bellingham, Washington, increased coal shipments through Whatcom County to SSA Marine’s proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal would negatively affect public health, marine life, property values, as well as jobs and local business in the area. A report by the grassroots organization Communitywise Bellingham states that an export terminal in Whatcom County could put other economic growths at risk, resulting in a net loss of jobs.
Additionally, The Western Organization of Resource Councils recently published a study claiming that railroad traffic would increase by tenfold in order to get coal to the coast, tying up rail lines and requiring taxpayers to fund infrastructure, such as overpasses, in order to mitigate congestion. Such an increase in rail traffic would be significant considering that “a 2007 national freight rail study put the [Columbia River] gorge, Portland-Vancouver and Puget Sound in the top 3 percent of congested lines.”
View the possible coal train routes and export terminals here.
Watch this video to see what it’s like to live near passing coal trains.
The following groups and are mobilizing for action on this issue.
Power Past Coal (All Cascadia)
Community Alliance Against Coal (Portland)
Coal Export Action (Montana)
Answer Oregon Public Broadcasting’s call for information on how the proposed coal terminals might affect you here.
Image courtesy of Julie Coop. View more images of the coal train she photographed in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area here.