The battle over coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest has shifted dramatically with the announcement on May 8 by Kinder Morgan that it would walk away from plans to build a massive coal export terminal near Clatskanie, Oregon, along the Columbia River.
The announcement is sending shockwaves across the Northwest, where coal export companies have faced unprecedented opposition from local residents, business owners, public health professionals, elected officials, farmers, conservationists, and many others.
“There is a thin blue line separating Asian coal markets and the coal mines in Wyoming and Montana,” says Bruce Nilles of the Sierra Club. “In these blue states of Washington, Oregon, and California there are tens of thousands of activists, an army of lawyers, and a growing number of elected officials who are ensuring that this line is never broken and coal exports never materialize. Mr. Buffett and others pushing these deadly coal exports: it is time to take your toys and go home. Accelerating climate disruption is not negotiable.”
Originally there were six proposed coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest, and now three are either dead (Grays Harbor, Washington and the Kinder Morgan’s St. Helens proposal in Oregon) or tabled (Coos Bay, Oregon).
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.
But climate change advocates have joined with Oregon and Washington residents concerned about coal dust and traffic tie-ups caused by mile-long trains.