New Report: Big Coal's Plans Put Northwest Wildlife at Risk
A new National Wildlife Federation report concludes that a massive buildup of U.S. coal exports through the Pacific Northwest would cause serious environmental degradation to the region's natural resources.
As coal continues to decline as a source of power in the U.S., the
report warns that the industry's plan to expand markets abroad will harm
fisheries, endanger communities, and increase global warming pollution.
Because of a decline in demand in the U.S. for coal, this fight over port
expansion in Washington and Oregon will determine the immediate future of the
coal industry in the United States.
"Sending more coal to Asia carries
almost no benefits for the U.S., but we pay the price," said Felice Stadler,
Director of Energy Campaigns at the National Wildlife Federation. "Degraded
fisheries, damaged communities, medical costs, harms to wildlife, and a
continued burning of high carbon fuel will cost us dearly for
Currently, at least six coal port proposals are being
considered in Washington and Oregon, which together would be capable of sending
150 million tons or more annually to Asian markets. The report is released
jointly with the Association of
"There are still too many unanswered
questions regarding the potential impact of coal dust on the Columbia River
watershed and the health of the river's salmon and steelhead runs, many of which
are federally-listed under the Endangered Species Act," said Russell Bassett,
executive director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders. "At the very
least the Army Corps of Engineers should conduct a programmatic Environmental
Impact Statement to study the potential impacts fugitive coal dust would have on
the Columbia River and the fisheries that supports billions of dollars in
Oregon's and Washington's economies."
The report, "The
True Cost of Coal" says ramping up coal exports means sending more
coal-laden rail cars through Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.
This will leave more fugitive coal dust and diesel emissions in communities,
deposit more mercury in waterways and create more air and noise pollution from
Wyoming's Powder River Basin to Puget Sound.
- Each coal car can lose hundreds pounds of toxic coal dust en route from the
Powder River Basin to the Pacific Northwest.
- There have been at least 30 coal train derailments in the U.S. since 2010
alone, raising the specter of massive coal contamination into rivers. A spate of
them has occurred in recent weeks.
- And whether burned in China or the U.S., coal would continue to speed
climate change and crowd out cleaner sources of energy like wind and solar
NWF issues a series of recommendations for policymakers in the report that
would urge further study of the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of the
projects including the induced rail traffic, mining activities and climate
implications. Federal and state permitting agencies must fully engage tribes in
this process as well.
Save orcas from dirty coal--urge the Army Corps of Engineers to review the threats from coal export terminals in the Northwest.