coal | KUOW News and Information

coal

The environmental review for what could be the largest coal export terminal in the country appears to have been put on hold.

SSA Marine is the company behind the proposed rail-to-ship coal terminal planned for the Puget Sound shoreline near Bellingham, Washington. It announced Friday that opposition from the Lummi Tribe was the main reason for its decision.

The tribe’s fishing grounds surround the project site, and the Lummi had asked the federal government to deny the permits for the coal terminal because it would violate their treaty fishing rights.

By the year 2030, the electricity that most Oregonians use won't be powered by coal. That's the goal of a measure that's moving through the Oregon Legislature. The state House approved the plan Tuesday.

The coal industry has been having a hard time lately.

Coal usage in the U.S. has been declining for years. That's prompted coal companies in the West to try to export their coal to Asia via ports in Washington, Oregon and California.

Washington state lawmakers are considering a bill that paves the way for a partial closure of the Colstrip coal-fired power plant in Montana.

In the face of mounting environmental regulations, Puget Sound Energy wants to develop a plan to close two of Colstrip's four coal units – a move that could reduce the amount of coal-produced electricity used by Washington consumers.

The Washington utility is one of six owners of the overall plant, but co-owns units 1 and 2 with just one other company, Talen Energy.

Amid a drop in demand for coal, a key investor in a proposed coal export project on the Columbia River filed for bankruptcy Monday.

Arch Coal is a 38-percent shareholder in the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals project, which would export 44 million tons of coal annually through a terminal in Longview, Washington. Arch owns mines in Colorado, Wyoming and five other states.

Officials with Arch Coal say the company's mines will stay open and the bankruptcy won't affect its employees.

Oregon Utilities Agree To Phase Out Coal-Fired Power

Jan 6, 2016

Oregon utilities have agreed to support a bill that would phase out coal-fired power in Oregon by 2030.

The agreement follows negotiations with the backers of a proposed ballot measure that set the same target for eliminating coal from the state's electrical supply.

The proposed legislation would only affect Pacific Power and Portland General Electric, which together serve about 70 percent of Oregon's electricity. It also calls for doubling the amount of renewable energy the utilities generate by 2040.

Conjuring images of a dystopia, the shroud of bad air blanketing New Delhi in recent weeks has intensified global pressure on India to curb its greenhouse gas emissions.

India will arrive at the climate change summit in Paris next week as the third biggest generator of fossil fuel pollution blamed for warming the planet, after China and the U.S.

Half of India's emissions come from burning coal. A visit to the coal-rich northeastern Indian state of Jharkhand reveals how this stands to get even worse.

Strip-mining spoil piles in background in Colstrip, Montana, June 1973.
Flickr Photo/U.S. National Archives (Public Domain)/http://bit.ly/1MAbdwV

David Hyde speaks with Montana Public Radio news director Eric Whitney about how a coal town in Colstrip, Montana could be shuttered by climate change.

Carlo Voli quit his corporate job a few years ago to become a full time Community Supported Activist. He's been fighting fossil fuels and climate change ever since.
Ashley Ahearn, KUOW/EarthFix

LYNNWOOD, Wash. – Carlo Voli moves through the crowd of protesters outside a recent public hearing in Washington.

He pauses to talk to a woman holding a cardboard cutout of an oil train and directs her over to where a group holding similar train car posters is lining up to complete the phrase “No More Exploding Oil Trains.”

Portland City Council Votes To Oppose Oil Trains

Nov 5, 2015

A large crowd cheered Wednesday night as the Portland City Council voted 4-0 to approve a resolution opposing projects that would increase the number of oil trains traveling through Portland and Vancouver, Washington.

The resolution calls for using existing laws to address environmental impacts of oil trains, and to ask railroad companies to share their plans and address safety concerns. But it can't stop oil trains from coming through town because the city doesn't have jurisdiction over railways.

“When it comes to coal, here at Crow you’re not going to have controversy,” said Darrin Old Coyote, chairman of the Crow tribe. Two years ago, he signed an agreement giving Cloud Peak Energy — one of the nation’s biggest coal companies — an option to lease 1.4 billion tons of coal on the reservation. He argued the jobs and revenue the agreement will provide are essential to his community.

Washington officials are delaying the environmental review of a proposed coal export terminal on the Columbia River.

The Washington Department of Ecology and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were scheduled to complete their joint environmental reviews next month for the Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export project in Longview, Wash.

Electric vehicles charging on the state Capitol campus in Olympia, Washington.
Flickr Photo/Washington State House Republicans (CC BY ND 2.0)

David Hyde talks to Mercer Island Mayor Bruce Bassett about why he and others are trying to get Puget Sound Energy to reduce reliance on coal.  

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead is in the midst of his second tour in less than a year to drum up support to export coal through the Northwest.

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.

Washington Tribe Wants Feds To Halt Coal Project

Jan 5, 2015

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.

Seattle Billionaire Steps Into Coal Fight

Dec 11, 2014
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.

NW Tribes Bring Coal Concerns To National Conference

Dec 4, 2014

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.

Pages