The proposed tar sands pipeline expansion known as the Keystone XL has monopolized the attention of many of the most active environmental organizations for years.
But while we wait with bated breath to see if Obama will uphold his recent promise to approve the pipeline only if it “doesn’t significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution” (it will), another, potentially more sinister fossil fuel project inches toward reality.
See, the American coal industry is dying (we neither want nor need it), and rather than going quietly and with some semblance of dignity, it’s trying to extend its finite lifespan by any means possible. Apparently, that means setting up a series of coal export terminals along the Oregon and Washington coasts and shipping every available lump to Asia, where they’re only beginning to care about things like air quality.
The terminals, the coal barons’ last best chance to revive an industry dying in America, would enable the vast coal deposits of the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana to be shipped to Asia—a project that would distribute more atmospheric carbon than the Keystone pipeline.
Originally, the export plan called for six terminals, but three have already been abandoned due to local outcry about coal dust and traffic tie-ups caused by mile-long trains.
What makes this coal-friendly project truly terrifying, however, is that there will be zero assessment of its environmental impact. That’s right, unlike the Keystone XL, which has been delayed due to controversy over not only environmental impact, but the validity of impact assessments already completed by the State Department, the coal export plan will face no-such road blocks.
The Army Corps of Engineers has announced it won’t seek an area-wide environmental impact statement for the proposed terminals, despite input from “sister” federal and state agencies who say an environmental assessment is absolutely essential.
According to Greenpeace, the Pacific Northwest terminals would be a key element in the coal industry’s plan to plans to export an additional 190 million tonnes of coal a year. “This would add 420 million tonnes of CO2 a year to global emissions before 2020; more than the entire CO2 emissions from fossil fuels in Brazil in 2010,” reads a 2013 energy report [pdf].
Burning U.S. coal in Asia will come back to us as air pollution, climate disruption and toxic pollution including mercury which ends up in the ocean and the bodies of fish we feed our children, states EarthJustice.
Blocking the flow of deadly coal into our atmosphere starts by exposing the proposed terminals and the lack of accountability being used to force them through. Then, citizens of the Pacific Northwest must keep up the pressure on Governor Inslee of Washington and Governor Kitzhaber of Oregon, demanding a transparent process that includes a full, objective environmental review, as well as a moratorium on Powder River Basin mining.
Signing the petition below is a good way to start.
Image via Thinkstock