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Protesters hold signs around a table populated by UW Regents.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Ross Reynolds talks to Taylor Kuykendall, a coal reporter for SNL Energy, about the University of Washington's decision to divest from thermal coal.  

Native American leaders gathered Thursday in Seattle to draw attention to the ongoing battle between tribes from British Columbia and around the Northwest, and the companies that want to export coal and oil to Asia.

Leaders from the Lummi, Spokane, Quinault, Yakama, Tulalip, Northern Cheyenne, Swinomish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nation of British Columbia gathered at the Ballard Locks in Seattle to call on the Army Corps of Engineers to deny permits for the Gateway Pacific Terminal, which could be built near the Canadian border.

Student Lorena Guillen shows her support for the UW Board of Regents, which on Thursday voted to purge the UW's endowment fund of investments in "thermal coal," a type of coal used in power plants that's associated with higher pollution levels.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The University of Washington’s Board of Regents voted Thursday night to sell off its investments in thermal coal -- the kind of coal used to generate power.

It’s only the fourth time the university has “divested” its endowment – the other issues were South Africa, tobacco and Sudan.

EarthFix Photo/Katie Campbell

Ross Reynolds talks with King County Executive Dow Constantine about his concerns about coal and what he wants the state to do about it.

In the past few years, students at hundreds of colleges and universities have started pushing their schools to divest from fossil fuel companies as a way to slow climate change.

The campaign has had some notable wins in the past year. But at tiny Swarthmore College, outside of Philadelphia, where the movement was born, students have been staging a sit-in for nearly a month to try to make their voices heard.

Northwest utilities are fighting pressure to end to all use of coal-fired power -- even when it's generated in places like Utah and Montana.

Many people are surprised to find out how much coal-fired power the Northwest still uses, even with all of its hydroelectric dams and wind farms. Oregon still gets about a third of its electricity from coal. In Washington, it's about 15 percent.

The Oregon Transportation Commission on Thursday voted 3-1 to deny a $2 million grant of state funds for dock improvements at Port Westward in Clatskanie, Oregon, a project tied to proposed coal exports.

It was the second time the commission voted down the controversial application, which the former chair of the commission claims she was fired for refusing to approve the first time.

Environmental groups had urged the commission to reject the application and lauded the vote.

When utility companies burn coal to make electricity — and it generated 39 percent of U.S. energy in 2013 — it leaves behind ash that can contain arsenic, selenium, boron and many other toxic substances.

Wyoming lawmakers have passed legislation that would allow the state to finance the construction of coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere.

On Friday, Wyoming’s state legislature sent to Gov. Matt Mead a bill that would allow the state to issue up to $1 billion in bonds to help fund out-of-state projects, including coal export terminals.

Lloyd Drain, director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority, said these projects would be good for Wyoming coal and the Northwest, too.

Northwest Officials Unite Against Coal And Oil Trains

Mar 4, 2015

More than 150 elected officials from across the Northwest have teamed up to speak out against coal and oil trains. Their new group, the Safe Energy Leadership Alliance, held its third meeting in Portland Tuesday.

Washington's King County Executive Dow Constantine has stepped up to chair the group. It includes officials from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and British Columbia.

SEATTLE -- A federal agency says a Puget Sound tribe has not made a convincing enough case to to halt the permitting process for the largest proposed coal export facility in the country.

Oregon Bill Would Eliminate Coal-Fired Power By 2025

Feb 4, 2015

A bill in the Oregon Legislature this session would require electric companies to stop delivering coal-fired power to Oregon customers by 2025.

The replacement power would have to come from sources that are 90 percent cleaner than coal plants.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tobias Read (D-Beaverton) and Sen. Chris Edwards (D-Eugene), targets coal-fired power coming into Oregon from out of state. Oregon's only coal-fired power plant in Boardman is scheduled to be retired in 2020.

LUMMI RESERVATION, Wash. -- The Lummi Nation issued a letter Monday to the U.S. government seeking to end the project's permitting process for a coal-shipping project encircled by their Puget Sound fishing grounds.

A coal mining operation near Gillette, Wyoming. Seattle billionaire Paul Allen is bankrolling a lawsuit over the way the federal government leases public land for coal mining.
KCTS9 Photo/Michael Werner

As the Seattle Seahawks eye another run at the Super Bowl, their owner Paul Allen has chosen to tackle a different challenge: climate change.

Instead of giving money to environmental groups, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft is picking up the tab for a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior, which oversees the leasing of public land to coal mining companies.

Northwest tribes took part in a national gathering Wednesday for native leaders in Washington, D.C., where top federal officials told them they stand together in opposing climate change and supporting treaty rights.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was among those who addressed the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference.

"There’s a saying: 'we don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.'" she said. "So that’s what climate change is all about. We have an earth that is in trouble."

Jewell’s comments were met with applause.

EarthFix Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Environmental groups are among the biggest spenders in this year’s state elections in Washington and Oregon, pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into campaigns to ensure Democratic statehouse control.

Wyoming Offers Northwest Tribal Leaders A Free Trip To Coal Country

Oct 7, 2014

Treaty fishing rights give Northwest tribes extra clout when it comes to the future of proposed coal terminals on the Columbia River and Puget Sound.

That's not lost on the governor of Wyoming, a big proponent of coal exports.

Gov. Matt Mead is inviting Northwest tribal leaders on an all-expenses-paid trip to coal country in Northeastern Wyoming, according to an email obtained by EarthFix.

The governor's invitation went out to tribes in Oregon and Washington, including the Umatilla, Yakama, Swinomish and the Lummi.

The developer of the proposed Morrow Pacific coal export project, as well as two project supporters, have appealed the state of Oregon's decision to deny a permit for a dock on the Columbia River.

As more oil trains travel along the Columbia River and Puget Sound, conservation groups worry that cleanup plans could harm sensitive wildlife, like endangered salmon and shorebirds.

Oregon Approves Subsidies For Oil Transport, Not For Coal

Aug 25, 2014

The Oregon Transportation Commission voted Friday to approve nearly $5 million in subsidies for rail and dock infrastructure tied to controversial coal export and oil-by-rail projects.

KUOW Photo/Jake Warga

This week, we found out what’s really at the bottom of Lake Washington. The reporter who did the story surfaces to tell us. Plus, do Seattle TV stations have the right to surveillance video of the SPU shooter? Do coal companies have the right to ship from our shores? Is it right to pay voters to vote? And was something not right with Steve Ballmer and Lakeside High School basketball?

Bill Radke asks those questions and more of this week's panel: Crosscut’s Knute Berger, The Stranger’s Eli Sanders and Maria LaGanga of the LA Times.

Ross Reynolds talks with KUOW reporter Ashley Ahearn about what the denial of a key permit for a coal terminal in Oregon means for Washington state.

Oregon regulators plan to decide Monday whether to deny a permit for a coal export dock in Boardman to preserve tribal fishing on the Columbia River.

The Morrow Pacific coal export project needs a permit from the Oregon Department of State Lands to build a dock for coal barges. The project would ship nearly 9 million tons of coal from Wyoming and Montana to Asia. It would transfer coal shipments from trains to barges in Boardman, and load the coal onto ships at a dock in Clatskanie, Oregon.

Flickr Photo/Canada 2020 (CC-BY-NC-ND)

David Hyde talks to columnist Vaughn Palmer about U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman's request for a partnership between the two countries in combating climate change. Plus, how the U.S. decision on coal-burning power plant affects the coal-port expansion and an update on the Victoria sewage plant.

Hundreds gathered at the Hilton Vancouver Convention Center and stayed late into the night Monday for a Vancouver City Council hearing on a resolution opposing what would be the Northwest's largest oil-by-rail shipping facility.

More than 140 people signed up to testify at the hearing. At 11 p.m., more than four hours after the hearing began, the council voted to extend the meeting even later to take additional testimony.

Wyoming Governor Visits Washington To Promote Coal Exports

Jun 4, 2014

LONGVIEW, Wash. -- A controversial coal export terminal proposed for this Columbia River town has a big supporter from the state of Wyoming.

Its governor was in Longview Tuesday to tour the old aluminum smelter where the The Millennium Bulk coal export terminal would move up to 44 million tons a year of Wyoming coal off trains and onto ships bound for Asia.

Flickr Photo/Rob Ketcherside (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks with Leonard Garfield, Museum of History and Industry's executive director, about coal's rich history in the Pacific Northwest.

Yakama Nation Protests Coal Export Terminal

May 21, 2014

BOARDMAN, Ore. -- Yakama Nation tribal members took to the Columbia River Tuesday to protest a proposed coal export facility in eastern Oregon. The tribe says the export facility would cut fishers off from treaty-protected fishing sites along the river.

More than 70 people held signs and waved flags on the banks of the Columbia River, just downstream from the proposed Morrow Pacific coal export terminal.

BLACK DIAMOND, Wash. -- Environmentalists have launched a full-on offensive against coal export terminals proposed for Washington and Oregon, but they might want to take a look closer to home.

A small open pit coal mine just outside of Seattle is looking to get back in business.

The John Henry Mine, formerly the Black Diamond Mine, has been in operation on and off since the late 1800s, but it closed down in 1999.

Students Urge Washington Schools To Stop Investing In Fossil Fuels

May 7, 2014

Steve Scher talks to Alex Lenferna, a graduate student at the University of Washington and leader of Divest UW, about his group's efforts to persuade the university to remove fossil fuels from its stock profile.

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