The Secret Coal Plan That’s Scarier Than The Keystone XL

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.

From TakePart’s RL Miller:

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


Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Elke Hoppenbrouwers

If it were not for the greed of big business, we would leave especially coal (later it should also be oil and gas) in the ground. We will produce pollution and destroy the environment by mining for coal. The transport to the harbor, too, will contribute to further pollution and health problems for people. So, we will not produce further CO2 when the coal gets burned, but that extra CO2 - be it produced in China or India - will affect our climate and this is something we do not need!

Nancy Crouse
Nancy Crouse4 years ago

No one seems to have a clear vision for the future of our countries nor the world. I know it is smoggy, hot and smelly but this should prompt people, politicians, and corporations to get on with alternative fuels and caring for the envirionment. Notice how I have separated the
people from the other 2 groups! Creating green jobs will also boost the economy. DUH!
Countries and corporations are so greedy and eager to make money they do not care how they make it, they just want the money. To hell with the environment and the ill effects to which people are then subjected.

John S.
Past Member 4 years ago

I signed the other day.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G4 years ago

Big Oil, shortsighted governments and others who would squander everyone's tomorrow for their own greedy gains today... they do not care about anything else.


Joseph Belisle
Joseph Belisle4 years ago

What do you do in an oligarchy? Complain. Write you elected representatives. Sign petitions. And the souless wealthy do what they want anyway. We have a free market system. In a free market system, the health and well being of people come secondary. Even tertiary to profits. How do you think free trade agreements get into place? Not one has benefited anyone below the wealthy class. Shipping coal to other countries is an outright betrayal of humanity. But profits mean the world to these coal magnates. Not lives.

Bill K.
Bill K4 years ago

It's folly to think we can "export" air pollution. As if our air is ours and China's air is theirs. Absurd.

Deb E.
Deb E4 years ago

I live on the proposed route. We are fighting it hard and we have our Governor behind us, as well as a strong voice in the U.S. Senate who opposes this. We NEED everyone in this country to rally behind this just like the Keystone pipeline because if those coal trains do come through my city, we will lose everything that is so dear to us here. The clean air and great living conditions we enjoy will be gone. We can't allow for them to haul this dust spewing garbage through our country so that they can export it. Please sign and share the petition!!! Thank you for sharing this story!!

Carole R.
Carole R4 years ago


Peggy A.
Peggy A4 years ago

so disheartening petition signed. sad