Trainloads of coal from Powder River Basin travel to Washington's coast for export. Photo by Paul K. Anderson.
What would it be like if an endless train carrying countless tons of coal destined for foreign power plants barreled its way through your neighborhood? Besides the excessive noise, the toxic dust from the boxcars would leave you and everyone around you coughing and wheezing.
No wonder why hundreds of people showed up earlier this month to the "Coal Hard Truth" forum in Mt. Vernon, Washington. Co-organized by the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, and featuring speakers from Transition Fidalgo & Friends, the Skagit Valley Food Co-Op, and the "Whatcom Docs" - a group of more than 150 doctors who fear the health ramifications of that coal brings with it - dozens of concerned people eagerly signed up to get involved.
With increasing resistance to new coal plants here at home, the exporting of U.S. coal is becoming more appealing to money-hungry companies, like Peabody Coal. Asia already burns 140 million metric tons of coal from the Powder River Basin every year, and much of that coal ride in trains that snake their way through Washington communities to the coast for export.
Big Coal's latest concoction is to expand their current operations by a whopping 48 million tons of coal every year and to obtain approval a $600-million terminal in the bay side city of Bellingham. This influx of trains and boats loaded with coal would clog this area's railways and docks. Past proposals to do the same have all failed in Tacoma, Grays Harbor, and Kalama because of local opposition and action.
"I am continually amazed at the level of community engagement on this issue," says Robin Everett, Associate Regional Representative of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. "This is a great start to our campaign to stop coal exports in Washington and build a state-wide movement," says Robin.
Plans for the Bellingham terminal are still in the early stages, but it isn't too early to mobilize community members and prepare them for what will probably become a formidable clash with the industry in the coming months. The coal industry has told local media that the proposed terminal would bring jobs to the area.
"We want a future for Bellingham that consists of good, clean jobs that reflect the values of our community," says Robin. "The coal-export terminal threatens a plan to revitalize the waterfront that would create jobs and tax revenue. We need that plan instead of scarring our community and threatening our health like a coal terminal would."
When community members face the choice preserving their health versus a screaming train full of coal, they take a deep breath of fresh air and tell coal to take a hike.
You can help fight coal in Bellingham or in your neighborhood - join the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign in your community.
Read more on coal:
Pushing Coals in Schools? Scholastic & American Coal Foundation Tag Team to Teach Kids About Energy
Coal Costs More Money Than it Creates in W. Virginia
Mayor Bloomberg Donates $50 Million to Sierra Club for Anti-Coal Campaign