Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Enormous Grassroots Response to Coal Export Plan in Washington

WA Beyond Coal 1

How many messages do you need to leave before theyget the hint?

One can only wonder what Big Coal is thinking after morethan 124,000 comments poured onto the desks of decision-makers who will beoverseeing an environmental impact statement concerning a massive coalexporting scheme that would alter Washingtonstate's coastline and send countless coal trains through people'sneighborhoods.

The issue surrounds Cherry Point, where SSA Marine wants to build an export terminal that would connect the coalmines of Powder River Basin with energy-hungry East Asia.

Mayor Coal Train 01

It's one part of a larger plan to open up the coastline tocoal exports and completely reverse any progress on the climate crisis. Itwould send millions of tons of coal each year through Washingtoncommunities and farmland, clogging up rail lines and roads and leaving coaldust behind.

The overwhelming response has caught the attention of thethree agencies in charge of deciding the plan's fate: the Army Corps, the stateDepartment of Ecology, and Whatcom County.

"We're looking at an unprecedented number ofcomments," said Washington Department of Ecology spokesman Larry Altose inthe Bellingham Herald.

The sheer number of comments means it will take months to gothrough all of them.

"Everyday this plan is delayed it proves that this is a muchbigger issue than what the coal industry tried to make it out to be," saidRobin Everett, Associate Regional Representative of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. "There are huge consequencesthat the public takes issue with and the state is going to take the time toevaluate this in the right way."


Meanwhile, some from Big Coal's corner havefigured that the hassle of fighting entire communities is not worth it. InAugust, RailAmerica gave up on its plans that would have sent five tons of coaleach year through Grays Harbor.

Another coal export proposal on the table awaits in Longview,a few hundred miles south of Cherry Point on the Oregonborder. Community members and clean-air advocates are poised to take this on aswell later this year.

"This movement against the Cherry Point proposal has set up a great precedent for the next fight," Everett said.


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