(image courtesy of powerpastcoal.org)

The issue is a scheme to transform the Pacific Northwest into a pathway for exporting coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin to be shipped to China. The Wyoming mines are owned by Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private sector coal company. Eighteen coal trains per day would travel the rails of the BNSF Railway through dozens of rural and urban communities. The trains’ destination would be Gateway Pacific Terminal, currently proposed at Cherry Point, north of Bellingham, Washington. Two other proposed terminals (on the Columbia River at Boardman, OR and Longview, WA) are currently struggling to pass environmental approval.

China, the world’s largest consumer of coal, is industrializing at a rapid scale. Despite also being the world’s largest producer of coal, it needs even more to feed demand. Coal use in China makes up more than 15% of the CO2 emissions of the entire world. Additionally, air pollution in many Chinese cities, especially Beijing, far surpasses levels considered compatible with human health.

Domestically, the coal export plan means air pollution from fugitive coal dust, noise and delays from increased rail traffic, and risks to human communities and the environment as millions of tons of toxic and flammable material are transported through the region. It also symbolizes the worst of America’s complicity in accelerating the effects of climate change, just so a few giant corporations make a quick buck.