Oregon Denies Permit For Controversial Coal Export Dock

EarthFix · Oregon Public Broadcasting, August 18, 2014
By Cassandra Profita

Oregon regulators announced Monday they will not issue a permit for a controversial coal export dock in Boardman.

The announcement follows a fight between the Morrow Pacific coal export project developer Ambre Energy and Columbia River tribes over tribal fishing at the proposed dock site.

Oregon Department of State Lands director Mary Abrams said her agency weighed numerous factors before making the decision, including public comments, economic and social impacts of the project, and whether the project meets state requirements for protecting water resources, navigation, fishing and public recreation.

In a news release Monday, the agency announced it determined that the Morrow Pacific project “is not consistent with the protection, conservation and best use of the state’s water resources, and that the applicant did not provide sufficient analysis of alternatives that would avoid construction of a new dock and impacts on tribal fisheries.”

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Yakama Nation to Coal: And Stay Out

BlueOregon | August 18, 2014
By Michael O’Leary

“The Yakama Nation will not rest until the entire regional threat posed by the coal industry to our ancestral lands and waters is eradicated.” ~Yakama Nation Chairman JoDe Goudy.

Governor Kitzhaber’s Department of State Lands has issued a landmark denial of Oregon’s only proposed coal export terminal, keeping millions of tons of coal right where it belongs – buried in the ground.

Back in May the Yakama Nation protested that the coal terminal proposed for their traditional treaty recognized fishing grounds up on the Columbia River, near modern day Boardman, was an attack on the water, the salmon, their way of life, and a contradiction to the idea of living in balance with our surroundings.

The Australian coal mining company in question, Ambre Energy, denied the tribal claims in comments to the media and in filings to state regulators.

Evidently the claims by the coal company about where tribal fishing rights do or don’t apply were not persuasive.

In their findings released on August 18th the Department of State Lands had the final word on the matter:

“The agency record demonstrates that the project would unreasonably interfere with a small but important and and long-standing fishery in the State’s waters at the project site.”

In response to this news Yakama Chairman JoDe Goudy made the following statement:

“This is only the beginning of what I expect will be a long fight. Yakama Nation will not rest until the entire regional threat posed by the coal industry to our ancestral lands and waters is eradicated. We will continue to speak out and fight on behalf of our people, and for those things, which cannot speak for themselves, that have been entrusted to us for cultivation and preservation since time immemorial. Today, however, we thank and stand in solidarity with the State of Oregon, and celebrate its decision to protect the Columbia River from further damage and degradation.”

So what’s next?

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Oregon Rejects Key Permit for Coal Export Terminal

EcoWatch | August 18, 2014
By Brett VandenHeuvel, Columbia Riverkeeper

The state of Oregon stood up to dirty coal exports today by denying a key dock-building permit. This denial is a major victory for residents and climate activists who have waged a huge, high-profile campaign against coal exports. Oregon’s decision today shows that our state leadership values clean air, our climate and healthy salmon runs.

Hundreds of Oregonians gather at a youth-led rally against coal export in March. Kids ages three and up spoke out against coal exports and demanded that Governor Kitzhaber protect their future from dirty coal.

Hundreds of Oregonians gather at a youth-led rally against coal export in March. Kids ages three and up spoke out against coal exports and demanded that Governor Kitzhaber protect their future from dirty coal.

Coal export proponent, Ambre Energy asked the Oregon’s Department of State Lands for permission to build a new loading dock to ship Powder River Basin coal down the Columbia River to ocean-going ships bound for Asia. Oregon said no, saying the coal export project “would unreasonably interfere with the paramount policy of this state to preserve the use of its waters for navigation, fishing and public recreation.”

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Federal judge orders Army Corps to release Ambre Energy coal terminal documents

OregonLive.com | August 14, 2014
By Rob Davis

A federal judge order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to turn over documents about a proposed Boardman coal terminal that would unload coal trains to export to Asian markets. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

A federal judge order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to turn over documents about a proposed Boardman coal terminal that would unload coal trains to export to Asian markets. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

It will have taken nearly two years, but an environmental group will finally get the documents it wanted about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers review of a proposed Oregon coal export terminal.

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the agency to produce more than 300 pages of documents sought by Columbia Riverkeeper about Ambre Energy’s planned terminal to send 8.8 million tons of coal annually to Asia.

The environmental group requested information from the Army Corps under the federal Freedom of Information Act in November 2012. The group’s attorneys wanted to know why the agency settled on a less stringent environmental review for the proposed coal terminal in Boardman than for two in Washington state.

The Army Corps withheld some or all of 341 documents. Riverkeeper sued to get them in August.

Federal magistrate judge Paul Papak ordered their release Thursday, saying the agency had failed to back up claims that the documents should be exempt from disclosure.

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Oregon coal, oil train expansion subsidies draw elected leaders’ opposition

OregonLive.com | August 7, 2014
By Rob Davis

A group of local and state leaders is urging Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and the state’s top transportation officials not to award $6.9 million in subsidies to projects that would aid the expansion of oil and coal train traffic.

The officials, including Multnomah County Chairwoman Deborah Kafoury and the mayors of The Dalles, Albany, Eugene, Milwaukie, Beaverton and Hood River, say the state should do more to prepare for oil train accidents before spending money to expand traffic.

State subsidies shouldn’t be awarded without understanding the impact on Oregonians’ health and safety, the elected officials say. The projects hold “the potential for grave risk to people, property and the environment,” Kafoury and Multnomah County Commissioner Jules Bailey said in a letter.

The state’s transportation commission will decide later this month whether to spend $2.9 million on a rail line improvement project in Rainier, a Columbia River town where oil train traffic bisects the main street. The project would install curbs, reconfigure parking and add designated pedestrian and vehicle crossings on A Street, allowing trains to speed up from 10 mph to 25 mph and blow their horns fewer times.

The Rainier project would allow the number of mile-long oil trains passing through the town to increase from 24 monthly to 38, helping expansion plans and profits for an oil shipping terminal operated near Clatskanie by Massachusetts-based Global Partners.

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Dirty Coal Exports Are a ‘Global Shell Game’

Common Dreams, July 28, 2014
By Deirdre Fulton

Federal coal leases are essentially a major fossil fuel subsidy, Greenpeace says.

Black Thunder Coal Mine North, in Wyoming's Powder River Basin. (Photo: Doc Searls)

Black Thunder Coal Mine North, in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. (Photo: Doc Searls)

U.S. coal exports and the federal coal leasing program threaten to undermine federal, state, and international efforts to reduce carbon pollution, according to reports issued Monday.

An Associated Press analysis of U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data shows that while the U.S. has cut its own coal consumption by 195 million tons over the last six years, about 20 percent of that coal was shipped abroad, much of it to European countries.

Even as the U.S. promotes energy efficiency and cracks down on dirty power plants within its own borders, thereby reducing U.S. carbon pollution, it has increased its coal-export capacity — with coal producers and companies that sell coal seeking to expand that infrastructure even further.

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With 18 oil trains weekly, Columbia River Gorge is the key route for Pacific Northwest’s crude-by-rail

The Oregonian, June 24, 2014
By Rob Davis

An oil train parked in Vancouver, Wash., in early April. BNSF moves 18 oil trains weekly through the Columbia River Gorge to Clark County. (Rob Davis/The Oregonian)

An oil train parked in Vancouver, Wash., in early April. BNSF moves 18 oil trains weekly through the Columbia River Gorge to Clark County. (Rob Davis/The Oregonian)

Eighteen oil trains a week move along the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, newly released data shows, a figure that could more than double if a proposed Vancouver, Wash., oil train terminal opens.

BNSF Railway Co. notified Washington authorities that it hauled 19 oil trains through Klickitat County in one week between May 29 and June 4, the state’s most heavily traveled route. All but one continued on through the gorge to Clark County, en route to Seattle and Portland.

At that pace, nearly 1,000 oil trains would move through the Columbia Gorge annually. That could grow to almost 2,500 trains a year – carrying between 70,000 and 90,000 barrels of oil apiece — if a major Vancouver oil train terminal proposed by Tesoro-Savage is approved. And that doesn’t include crude oil from Utah hauled by Union Pacific on the Oregon side of the gorge.

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America’s plan to ship coal supplies to China

Maclean’s — Canada’s only national weekly current affairs magazine
By Luiza Ch. Savage, June 10, 2014

America’s dirty secret…

Shipping coal to China could wipe out the benefits of Obama’s climate-change policy.

The centrepiece of Barack Obama’s climate policy, announced this month, limits greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants largely by cutting the country’s reliance on coal. The policy was touted as a major piece of the President’s environmental legacy but it raised an important question: what will happen to America’s coal—the largest recoverable reserves in the world?

It’s a question that could soon have an answer. With coal demand at home expected to fall by 20 per cent due to new regulations, and competitive pressure from low-priced natural gas, coal companies are now pushing to increase exports to Asia. China in particular consumes almost half of the world’s coal—and in recent years demand has soared. Three new coal-export ports are being proposed for the Pacific coast: two in Washington state and one in Oregon. They could eventually ship up to 100 million tons of coal per year—an amount equivalent to the total volume of coal the U.S. will export this year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA). “We view the Northwest port terminals as advantageous locations for exports to Asia—the most efficient location for exporting to countries that are going to be generating strong demand for coal,” says Nancy Gravatt, a spokeswoman for the National Mining Association, the U.S. industry group. Top Asian destinations are China, South Korea, India and Japan.

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About that deadline: State extends coal decision, again, to study fisheries

Sustainable Business Oregon, May 30, 2014
By Mason Walker

The decision on whether or not to grant a permit for a high-profile coal export facility proposed near Boardman [Oregon] has been delayed, the eighth such extension for the controversial Morrow Pacific project.

The latest delay comes despite a request from Gov. John Kitzhaber that a decision be made by May 31.

The Oregon Department of State Lands, the agency reviewing the permit request, delayed the decision to August 18 to allow time to collect additional information on the project, including whether the project would have negative impacts on fisheries located near the Port of Morrow.

Project developer Ambre Energy agreed to the delay, providing a brief statement on the matter.

“The extension gives the department time to continue to research and receive information, and provides Morrow Pacific a period to respond,” said Ambre.

In its announcement of the delay, the Department of State Lands explicitly mentioned that the project would not re-open to public comment.”

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Stopping Fossil Fuel Exports – An Interview with Bill McKibben

Daily Kos, May 8, 2014
By James Wells

People in our corner of northwest Washington have a lot of gratitude to author Bill McKibben. In addition to his national leadership on climate, Bill came out here in May, 2011 to help raise the alarm about plans for North America’s largest coal export terminal. Since then, we have taken that ball and ran with it!

Photo by Paul Anderson

Photo by Paul Anderson

Prior to his pending return to Bellingham, on May 16 and 17, Bill was kind enough to give an interview by email both about climate activism generally and also about our specific regional issues.

Read more… 

 

 

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Coal train derailment in Maryland

Grist | A Beacon in the Smog, May 2, 2014
By Joe Smyth, Grist Guest Contributor

A CSX train hauling about 8,000 tons of coal from Pennsylvania to Southern Maryland derailed on Thursday in Bowie, Marlyand, highlighting the risks of transporting fossil fuels less than 24 hours after another CSX train carrying Bakken crude oil exploded in Lynchburg, Virginia. Aerial photos taken by Greenpeace photographer Tim Aubry of the coal train derailment on Friday show that boom has been laid around the area as workers began to remove the several carloads of coal that were spilled.

CSX Coal Train Derailment In Maryland

The Baltimore Sun notes that “The line where the derailment occurred in Bowie is also a freight line, officials said — raising questions about the combined impact the Baltimore and Bowie incidents will have on freight movements in the region, including out of the port of Baltimore.”

Joel Connelly at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes that the “accidents striking the CSX Railroad in the East this week are not putting Northwest minds at ease about oil and possibly coal trains passing through Puget Sound cities.” Indeed, Sightline Institute researcher Eric de Place noticed that new “safer” tank cars were involved in the Lynchburg, VA, oil train fire.

Read more, see photos…

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A green line of governors: Can Inslee, Kitzhaber stop energy exports?

Crosscut.com | News of the Great Nearby, May 1, 2014
By Floyd McKay

Coal, oil and gas proposals are flooding into states headed by governors who want to fight global warming.

BNSF engines idle at the site of the Tesoro-Savage oil terminal in Vancouver. Paul K. Anderson, Chuckanut Conservancy

BNSF engines idle at the site of the Tesoro-Savage oil terminal in Vancouver. Paul K. Anderson, Chuckanut Conservancy

Elections have consequences, it is often said, and the elections of 2010 and 2012 brought to the West Coast a solid green line of governors: John Kitzhaber in Oregon, Jerry Brown in California and Jay Inslee in Washington. Climate change is under attack in all three states, and rhetoric is building in the Northwest.

Conservation leaders are ecstatic about recent climate-change statements from Washington’s Inslee and Oregon’s Kitzhaber. They come as the region is targeted by Big Energy, which is seeking a pathway to Asia, a modern Silk Road carried on rails and ships.

Coal knocked first, in 2010, with proposals for huge export terminals at Cherry Point north of Bellingham and at Longview, plus a smaller Columbia River lash-up of plans involving trains, barges and ships. This year, crude-oil trains from North Dakota’s bottomless Bakken oil field began making their way westward in significant numbers — the crude is not bound for Asia, but headed for West Coast refineries. Liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas, which would be aimed at the export market, don’t want to be left behind; the list is long and diverse.

For climate-change warriors, coal is the biggest and most-obvious target — climate scientists are united in belief that burning coal is the major villain in climate change. Oil and gas are also fossil fuels, but the argument there carries somewhat less weight on climate change. However, nasty fires and explosions from oil-train derailments raise lethal concerns, and governors are among those listening.

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Dust Up | What an internal industry dispute says about coal dust risk

Sightline Daily | News & Views for a Sustainable Northwest
By Eric de Place and Marcia Baker, February 20, 2014

[This post is part of the research project: Northwest Coal Exports]

Amid all the debate about the risk of coal trains spreading coal dust into areas near the railroad tracks, it’s often forgotten that the subject is controversial even within the industry. How to control coal dust—or whether it can be done at all to a meaningful degree—has been the subject of a long-running dispute between those who ship the coal and those who carry it. The coal companies or utilities that ship the coal are on one side and the railroads that carry it are on the other.

The controversy developed originally not because either side was concerned about the spread of coal dust into neighboring communities or rivers, but because coal dust accumulation had become so severe in places that it actually destabilized tracks, resulting in derailments or trackside fires. In response, the railways began levying fees on the coal shippers to cover the costs of treating the coal with a chemical spray designed to reduce dust emissions. The coal shippers objected, arguing that the fee was unfair and that the coal dust control techniques are ineffective.

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NYT Op-Ed: Don’t Sell Cheap U.S. Coal to Asia

New York Times, February 12, 2014
By Michael Riordan, Op-Ed Contributor

EASTSOUND, Wash. — FROM where I live on Orcas Island in Puget Sound, north of Seattle, I can see Cherry Point across the wind-whipped waters of the Salish Sea. This sandy promontory jutting into Georgia Strait has become the focus of heated debate here in the Pacific Northwest.

Peabody Energy, Carrix and other corporations hope to build a shipping terminal at Cherry Point to export nearly 50 million metric tons of coal to Asia annually. They ballyhoo the jobs the terminal may bring to our region but say nothing about the profits they will reap from selling subsidized coal.

Opponents decry the prospect of the dirty, smelly, noisy trains blocking railroad crossings all across Washington State as they transport coal here from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming. They also warn that coal dust from the terminal will pollute nearby waters and harm our dwindling populations of herring, threatened Chinook salmon and endangered killer whales.

But much larger issues of national and global concern are at stake. The low-sulfur Western coal, strip-mined from federal lands, is valuable public property. The federal government’s leasing of these lands at low cost to strip miners made some sense a few decades ago when the United States needed low-sulfur coal to reduce the amount of sulfur dioxide that was being emitted by coal-burning power plants and causing acid rain. But today, as utilities convert to cheap natural gas and American coal use declines, mining companies are seeking customers in China, Japan and Korea.

Shipping this subsidized coal to Asian countries to help them power their factories, which undercut American manufacturers, makes little sense. Yes, this coal will help those countries produce cheap consumer goods for sale in stores across the United States. But it will also promote the continued transfer of industrial work to Asia, especially if the Trans-Pacific Partnership goes through. Is that good for American workers?

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Broad Scope for Longview Coal Terminal Evaluation Announced

Power Past Coal Press Release, February 12, 2014

Strong EIS will consider coal combustion in China, rail impacts in communities outside Washington

Contacts: Gayle Kiser, Landowners and Citizens for a Safe Community (Longview) 360-749-7029
Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, Columbia Riverkeeper, 503-929-5950
Kimberly Larson, Power Past Coal, 206-388-8674
Krista Collard, Sierra Club, 614-622-9109

LONGVIEW, WA – Today, the Washington State Department of Ecology and Cowlitz County announced a broad scope of their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed coal export terminal in Longview in southwest Washington State. If built, it would be the largest coal export terminal in North America, exporting up to 44 million metric tons of coal per year to Asia.

“It’s great to see the Dept. of Ecology and County Cowlitz using their authority to raise questions about the vast threats to coal exports,” said Gayle Kiser, a local Longview resident and president of Landowners and Citizens for a Safe Community. “This broad scope of the environmental and health review by the agencies reflects our Northwest values and common sense. The entire state of Washington, including Cowlitz County residents, would face impacts from coal export. Coal export would pollute our air and water, and halt the flow of traffic in our towns. Taxpayers and local governments can’t afford to put the blinders on for coal export; our agencies cannot either.”

The agencies will take a broad look at the impacts of the proposed terminal through the EIS, and will include a number of impacts: coal dust around the terminal, rail traffic and coal dust including in Montana, Idaho and the Columbia River Gorge, and the effects of coal combustion in China on Washington state, in particular carbon and mercury pollution. The Army Corps of Engineers has yet to announce their scope for Longview but took a very narrow one with the Cherry Point terminal.

“The Spokane City Council previously unanimously voted to have our voice heard in the building of coal export facilities and its great news that our state agency listened,” said Ben Stuckart, City of Spokane, City Council President. “Spokane has much to lose, and little to gain by allowing all these new coal trains through our town. Such an increase would harm our air quality, transportation systems, and emergency response. Today is a great step in the right direction for Spokane.”

The Dept. of Ecology, Cowlitz County and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers received over 215,000 public comments and heard from thousands of citizens last fall during the public comment period. That brings the total to 370,000 comments that have been submitted on coal export proposals in the Northwest. More than 60 local governments, including 28 local jurisdictions, submitted official comments on proposed Longview terminal. Over 160 elected officials, 500 businesses, and 600 health professionals have expressed concern or opposition to coal export.

“I’m pleased that the State of Washington is including rail impacts to Montana. These trains don’t just materialize at the Washington border, and the impacts increased coal traffic would have on emergency response times and air quality in Montana cities and towns is significant,” said Dawson Dunning of Montana, whose family has ranched near the proposed Otter Creek coal mine for generations. “We still have a ways to go to make sure that our ranching and agricultural interests are taken under full consideration in light of the drastic impacts increased mining would have on Montana and Wyoming. Any review of these ports needs to take a harder look at the survival of ranching communities and economies like ours.”

Read more…

Alternatively…View this press release in PDF form

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Is the Smart Money Bailing on Northwest Coal Exports?

Sightline Daily | News & Views for a Sustainable Northwest, January 8, 2014
By Eric de Place

[This post is part of the research project: Northwest Coal Exports]

The news is everywhere: finance titan Goldman Sachs is selling off its stake in SSA Marine, the would-be coal exporter of Whatcom County. (To be precise, Goldman Sachs Infrastructure Partners, a subsidiary of the big firm, is selling its stake in FRS Capital Corp and Carrix, the parent companies that house SSA.) Many see the move as a major bet against the economic viability of Northwest coal export schemes.

Though it is important to remember that SSA Marine is a big company with a range of port terminal holdings around the globe, there is evidence for believing that the sale is connected to worries about coal.

As usual, Crosscut’s Floyd McKay has some of the best coverage:

Goldman Sachs last July posted a warning for investors that coal exports would decline in future years. Tuesday’s announcement prompted a prominent coal opponent, Crina Hoyer of ReSources for Sustainable Communities, to say, “Goldman Sachs’ stepping away from coal export is yet another sign from Wall Street that coal export is a losing investment.”

Just as interesting as Goldman bailing out is that a billionaire Mexican investor, Fernando Chico Pardo, is stepping up to buy the 49 percent equity stake Goldman is unloading. Pardo is a longtime partner of oligarch Carlos Slim, one of the richest people on earth and the dominant player in numerous economic sectors of Mexico.

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New Film Exposes Climate Threats of Powder River Basin Coal Mining and Exports

EcoNews, Powered by EcoWatch
Originally posted June 14, 2013

A Pacific Northwest coal project is threatening the global environment on a scale greater than the Keystone Pipeline, but most people have never heard of it. Momenta, a documentary collaboration between Plus M Productions and Protect Our Winters, shares the story of the people living along the coal export trail and the project’s global environmental implications.

Since American demand for coal is declining, the American coal industry has turned its attention to rapidly expanding Asian markets. The plan is to extract 140 million pounds of coal per year from the Powder River Basin and ship it overseas via deep-water ports in Washington and Oregon.

“The closest way from Montana to Asia is through our backyards and through our ports here in the Northwest,” says Power Past Coal Campaign Director Beth Doglio. “If all of the proposals on the table right now get built, the impacts to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions would actually be significantly more than those of the Keystone Pipeline.”

Each day, more than 50 mile-and-a-half-long trains, laden with Powder River coal, will travel from Wyoming and Montana through hundreds of small towns to ports in the Pacific Northwest, leaving arsenic and mercury laden coal dust in their wake. The near-constant stream of escaping coal dust imposes toxic environmental pollutants and a myriad of health risks to pass-through communities.

And those are the domestic impacts. On a global scale, environmental experts warn that the amount of carbon emissions produced by burning the Powder River coal deposit would result in cataclysmic and irreversible impacts on global climate.

Read more…

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Major Victory for Clean Water in Coal Export Battle

EcoNews, Powered by EcoWatch
January 3, 2014

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington denied a motion to dismiss, allowing the Clean Water Act case to proceed against BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) for coal contamination of U.S. waterways. The Sierra Club, Puget Soundkeeper, Columbia Riverkeeper, Spokane Riverkeeper, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Friends of the Columbia Gorge filed the lawsuit on July 24, 2013, after finding substantial amounts of coal in and along several Washington waterways near BNSF rail lines. A similar case is also pending before the Western District of Washington in Seattle.

Photo credit: Paul Anderson

Photo credit: Paul Anderson

According to sworn testimony by BNSF Vice President of Transportation Gregory Fox, “BNSF estimates that up to 500 pounds of coal dust may be lost from the top of each car.” The company currently sends four uncovered coal trains through the state every day, each with an average of 120 rail cars. Based on the company’s figures, BNSF’s trains lose an estimated 240,000 pounds of coal dust  along its route daily.

“This victory is the first step in holding BNSF accountable for their continual pollution of our waterways,” said Cesia Kearns of the Sierra Club. “The court’s decision to move the case forward is a step in the right direction to stop coal—and its toxic associates, lead, arsenic and mercury—from further poisoning our fish, our water and our families. We take these threats seriously, and after today’s court decision we hope BNSF finally will too.”

The conservation groups point to BNSF’s long history of violating the Clean Water Act, which plainly states that dumping of any kind into a U.S. waterway without what is known as a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, is a violation of federal law. Each violation of the Clean Water Act carries a fine of $37,500, and the plaintiffs assert that every rail car that loses coal is considered a unique violation—a hefty number when considering four trains a day, at 120 cars each travel through Washington.

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Major Victory: Coal Dust Case Advances Against BNSF for U.S. Clean Water Act Violations

Sierra Club National, Press Release, January 3, 2014
By Krista Collard

Court gives green light for water pollution lawsuit to proceed, major implications for coal shipper.

Spokane, WA — The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington denied a motion to dismiss, allowing the Clean Water Act case to proceed against BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) for coal contamination of U.S. waterways. The Sierra Club, Puget Soundkeeper, Columbia Riverkeeper, Spokane Riverkeeper, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Friends of the Columbia Gorge, filed the lawsuit on July 24, 2013, after finding substantial amounts of coal in and along several Washington waterways near BNSF rail lines. A similar case is also pending before the Western District of Washington in Seattle.

View the order here…

Read more…

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Coal Trains Run into Stiff Resistance in U.S.

Common Dreams, originally published by Inter Press Service December 28, 2013
By Matthew Charles Cardinale

Activists say the coal trains lose one pound of toxic dust per car per mile. (Scott Granneman/cc by 2.0)

Activists say the coal trains lose one pound of toxic dust per car per mile. (Scott Granneman/cc by 2.0)

SPOKANE, Washington — Citizens and activists in the U.S. Pacific Northwest are fighting three different proposed coal terminals, including one in Oregon and two in Washington.

Meanwhile, three formerly proposed coal terminals have already been defeated. Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign recently cited these defeats as signs of progress in the broader campaign to retire the use of coal plants across the U.S. altogether.

“There are three main reasons we oppose coal exports,” Trip Jennings, organizer for Portland Rising Tide, told IPS.

“The first reason – I think the most important for us – is the fact that we’re closing down power plants in the U.S.,” he said. “Oregon and Washington will be totally coal-free in a number of years. We as a community and as citizens decided we didn’t want to burn coal. If we allow corporations to export… it undercuts all the work that we’ve done to address the climate crisis.”

“Second, this has a huge impact on the number of trains that are coming through this area. It creates a situation where we’re committed to shipping highly destructive commodities, rather than shipping people or clean resources on our rails,” Jennings said.

“Third is the dust that is created when these cars lose one pound of dust per car per mile. They’re sprinkling the countryside, the rivers, streams, and communities with toxic, dirty coal dust [leading to asthma and lung disease].”

Read more…

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Feds: Coal Companies Must Pay To Suppress Dust From Trains

EarthFix | Oregon Public Broadcasting, December 20, 2013
Contributed by Ashley Ahearn

A federal board has ruled that coal companies are responsible for controling dust coming off train cars. | photo credit: Katie Campbell

A federal board has ruled that coal companies are responsible for controlling dust coming off train cars. | photo credit: Katie Campbell

SEATTLE – A federal board has ruled that the coal companies operating in the Powder River Basin have to take certain measures to reduce the amount of dust that is escaping from coal train cars.

The Surface Transportation Board, a federal body responsible for overseeing safety and business disputes in the transportation sector, ruled that coal companies must ensure that coal is loaded into the train cars in a ‘bread loaf’ shape to prevent the coal from spilling over the tops of the cars. The board also said that coal companies must apply one of five approved ‘topper agents,’ or sprays, on top of the coal cars to tamp down the dust and that they are responsible for the added cost of applying the toppers, which can cost $.10 to $.75 per ton of coal.

The ruling comes after more than three years of debate between the coal companies and the rail companies over the problem of coal dust escaping from trains.

“This approval is consistent with the agency’s past ruling that BNSF could require measures be taken to reduce coal dust,” said Courtney Wallace, a spokesperson with BNSF Railway. Wallace called the move an “important milestone” in ensuring that coal dust stays in rail cars.

Read more…

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Viability of Oregon, Washington coal export terminals threatened by falling Asian prices

The Oregonian, December 13, 2013
By Rob Davis

A terminal to export 8.8 million tons of coal annually has been proposed at the Port of Morrow at Boardman. But a slump in coal prices is leaving it and two other export projects looking financially shaky. Jamie Francis/The Oregonian

A terminal to export 8.8 million tons of coal annually has been proposed at the Port of Morrow at Boardman, Oregon. But a slump in coal prices is leaving it and two other export projects looking financially shaky. Jamie Francis/The Oregonian

Three years ago, coal was hot.

Stoked by insatiable coal-fired Chinese power plants, international demand boomed. Prices soared. Phones rang frequently at Oregon and Washington ports. On the other end? Eager investors hoping to snatch up land to build export terminals to quench Asian demand.

How things have changed.

Today, coal prices have slumped. Exports have shrunk. Three coal terminals proposed in the Pacific Northwest have been abandoned. And industry analysts say the three that remain look precarious.

Asia was supposed to be the next frontier for U.S. coal producers, a glimmer of hope for a sinking industry. But the market is shifting underfoot, calling the terminals’ profitability into question. For investors, they’ve become bets that markets will bounce back.

“Certainly, higher prices globally are supportive of these investments,” said Richard Morse, managing director at SuperCritical Capital, an energy finance consulting firm. “To the extent we don’t have higher prices, it’s harder to make these work. U.S. exporters will have a harder time competing with lower-cost international competitors.”

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Documents Reveal Coal Exporter Disturbed Native American Archaeological Site At Cherry Point

Oregon Public Broadcasting · EarthFix, November 25, 2013
By Ashley Ahearn

Documents show how the company that wants to build a coal terminal along Washington state’s Puget Sound has already disturbed a well-documented archaeological site, without consulting nearby tribes.

This is the first installment of a two-part series.

Read more and download video

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State Officials From Coal Country Tell Washington Regulators to Watch Their Step on Coal-Port Permits

Washington State Wire | News of Capitol Importance, November 21, 2013
By Erik Smith

State officials from coal country are telling Washington regulators they need to watch their step. As a public-comment period finally ends on a Longview coal-terminal project, governors and attorneys general from Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming are putting Washington state on notice that it better not try to block coal shipments to make a not-very-effective statement against global warming.

For one thing, they say it won’t make a whit of difference in the global climate. And for another, they say it is a violation of federal constitutional prohibitions that prevent states from interfering in interstate commerce and usurping federal authority to regulate international trade. You get the idea a legal challenge could be in the offing.

“We are concerned with the law,” Montana Attorney General Tim Fox told Washington State Wire in an interview Wednesday. “We are not concerned with the science or politics of these things. Others can debate. But we just want to make it clear that Montana and North Dakota and Wyoming and every other state that has an interest in shipping commodities to an international market have a concern that interstate commerce not be unconstitutionally interfered with.”

Fox and fellow Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem of North Dakota are among the crowd that offered their two cents on the Longview project, out of an astounding 195,000 public comments that have been offered on the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminal project. Wyoming Gov. Matthew Mead sent a separate letter of his own. But let’s just say that the two letters the state officials mailed to Olympia carry a tad bit more weight than most – they are challenging the legal authority of Washington-state regulators to use the environmental-impact statement process to prevent coal shipments from this state’s waters. And while they don’t come quite out and say it, they are hinting that if the state Department of Ecology jiggers the permitting process in a way that allows Washington to reject a shipping terminal of national significance, an interstate court battle could ensue.

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Montana Environmental Information Center Say NO to Arch Coal’s Dirty Export Facility in Washington State

Montana Environmental Information Center
Comments Due by November 18th

Arch Coal has submitted an application in the State of Washington for a permit to build a massive coal export facility. We need your help to convince Washington to say NO! St. Louis, Missouri-based Arch Coal wants to strip mine the tranquil Otter Creek valley in Montana and ship the coal to China. For this scheme to work, Arch needs to receive a permit to build a coal port shipping facility in Longview, Washington. This is your official chance to say HELL NO to Arch Coal’s dirty coal port. We need you to make your voice heard today!As the United States transitions from dirty coal plants to clean and renewable energy sources, coal companies have decided to export coal to Asian markets in order to maintain their profits. More west coast coal ports are essential for companies like Arch Coal to export to countries like China and Korea.

Exporting Montana’s coal will cause air and water pollution, destruction of wildlife habitat, and traffic congestion and public safety concerns from increased train traffic. It will require the condemnation of private property to build the Tongue River Railroad, and most importantly, it will escalate climate change. We already have clean, affordable, and renewable alternatives that create thousands of jobs across Montana. We don’t need this destructive project.

Read more and please take action TODAY, and say NO to Arch Coal’s dirty coal port!…

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