New York Times, August 19, 2013
By Kirk Johnson
SPOKANE, Wash. — The Pacific Northwest’s sense of itself can sometimes seem green to the point of parody: a medium-roast blend of piney peaks and urban cool, populated by residents who look descended from lumberjacks or fishermen.
Now, plans by the energy industry to move increasing amounts of coal and oil through the region by rail, bound for Asia, are pulling at all the threads of that self-portrait.
Last September, the first trains of crude oil from the Bakken fields in North Dakota began chugging through. Since then, energy companies have drafted proposals for new storage, handling and shipment capability almost equivalent to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which is facing a deeply uncertain path of federal regulatory approval.
Mile-long trains from the coal mines of Wyoming already run daily, and the load could more than double if three big proposed export terminals gain approval and financing.
The expected outrage has ensued.
The proposals “do violence to many Northwesterners’ concept of their place and what it stands for,” Alan Durning, the founder and executive director of the Sightline Institute, an environmental research group in Seattle, said in an e-mail.