Coal is a net loser


After work on Thursday, Feb. 9, my husband and I went to a community meeting in Friday Harbor, on the proposed sites for coal terminals in Washington and Oregon. Since we also own property in Westport, I thought I would alert you to this very dangerous and dirty proposal. Although it may look like it will add several jobs to the area, the amount of pollution, health hazards and economic decline will, for sure, not be worth the short-term gain. The only people who will gain anything are the coal companies.

The two largest coal companies, Arch Coal and Peabody, along with Australian-based Ambre Energy, are working on very large coal export terminals so they can ship their coal to Asia. Terminals have been proposed in Washington for Cherry Point (north of Bellingham), Longview, and Grays Harbor; and Oregon for Boardman, Coos Bay and St. Helens.

The strip mining begins in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana. The coal is strip-mined, polluting water and destroying rangeland and habitat; not to mention the dramatic increase of air pollution not only in the coal mines but in the local communities.

Then the coal is moved along rail lines to Washington and Oregon’s coast endangering every community along the way. It is estimated that 500 pounds of coal can be lost in the form of dust from each rail car en route. Incidentally, the trains are supposed to be 1 ½ miles long. Some communities in and along rail lines and near the coal export terminals could see 20 or more coal trains through town every day. Coal dust from coal trains can cause serious long-term health problems like lung and heart disease and cancer. Toxic and heavy metals (mercury) would pollute our air and water. A single large coal plant can emit upwards of 10 million tons of climate pollution a year.

After the coal reaches the terminal, then it is loaded on what I am told are the world’s largest ships. The ongoing threat to wetlands, waterways and wildlife from potential ship collisions is frightening. There will be an additional 400-plus ships per year taking 48 million tons of coal to Asia. With the addition of all these ships, many of the ships require that their ballast water be exchanged. Every day, the large quantities of ballast water from these ships will be discharged into our waters. Carried in this water are plants, animals, bacteria, and pathogens. These organisms range in size from microscopic to large plants and free-swimming fish. These organisms have the potential to become aquatic nuisance species that may displace native species, degrade native habitats, spread disease, and disrupt human social and economic activities that depend on water resources. In addition, when these ships are in port, they are burning tons of diesel, adding to the air pollution of the blowing coal dust.

This is a dirty fuel that will poison our air, water, fish and food supply! I don’t want this in our backyard, much less anywhere in our world, do you? You may as well kiss fishing goodbye, let alone being able to live and breathe.

For more information and to sign the petition for “No More Coal,” please go to www.powerpastcoal.org.

Toni Bailey is a resident of Friday Harbor