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The coal export terminal proposed for the Columbia River town of Longview, Wash. is moving to the next phase in the environmental review process.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued three permits for the coal export terminal that Ambre Energy wants to build on the Columbia River in the Eastern Oregon town of Boardman.

A multinational banking giant is backing away from a proposal to build the West Coast’s biggest coal export project near Bellingham, Washington.

New York-based Goldman Sachs has sold its stock back to the companies proposing to build the Gateway Pacific Terminal. If built it would transfer 48 million tons of Wyoming coal each year from trains to ocean-going vessels bound for Asia.

Seattle 2013: A Year In Protest

Dec 30, 2013
Heather Villanueva

As we looked back on the last year, debating which stories to highlight here, we noticed a trend that surprised us: 2013 was a year of activism and protest in the Seattle area.

Flickr Photo/Aaron Hockley

A federal board has ruled that the coal companies operating in the Powder River Basin have to take certain measures to reduce the amount of dust that is escaping from coal train cars.

On December 6, 2013 at Town Hall in Seattle, reporter Ashley Ahearn moderated a discussion with Jay Julius, Lummi councilmember; and tribal law experts Mason Morisett and Knoll Lowney about an ongoing battle over a coal terminal, proposed to be built at Cherry Point, a sacred site for the Lummi.

KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Dozens of crab pot buoys dot the waters around Lummi tribal member Jay Julius’ fishing boat as he points the bow towards Cherry Point – a spit of land that juts into northern Puget Sound near Bellingham, Wash.

EarthFix/KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Three summers ago, the company that hopes to build the largest coal terminal in North America failed to obtain the permits it needed before bulldozing more than four miles of roads and clearing more than nine acres. 

EarthFix Photo/Katie Campbell

New research results suggest coal trains are contributing to the Northwest’s air pollution.

That’s according to the preliminary results of a University of Washington atmospheric and environmental scientist’s crowdfunded study.

Flickr Photo/Ryan Sitzman

UPDATE: 10/18/13, 2:30 p.m. PT.

This story does not reflect recent donations of approximately $150,000 made to a political action committee that supports Whatcom County Council candidates believed to be sympathetic to the proposed coal terminal in Bellingham, Wash. Donations were made to Save Whatcom, a conservative PAC.

Original Post:

A relatively small county council election in Washington state’s far northwest corner could play a major role in the future of the US coal industry.

The Whatcom County council could end up casting the deciding votes to permit the controversial dock for the Gateway Pacific Terminal, which would transfer coal from trains onto ships bound for Asia. It would be the largest coal export terminal on the West Coast.

Flickr Photo/Ryan Sitzman

China plans to cut coal consumption in major northern cities including Beijing and Shanghai by 2017 to curb pollution. Could this impact demand for Wyoming coal and proposed (and controversial) coal export terminals in Washington state?  Marcie Sillman talks it over with David Roberts who writes for the Seattle-based environmental magazine, Grist.

Pamela Gerber

Proposals to make the Northwest a major coal exporting region have made for a familiar debate over the potential impacts on people and the environment. Will it help the economy? What will coal dust do to the air we breathe? Will our rivers and marine waters be threatened?

Here’s another question: Will coal trains harm the wetlands of the Pacific Northwest?

So far, wetlands have not been a central part of the public debate over coal exports. But concern over these ecologically sensitive areas are familiar to the federal regulators who will decide whether to permit coal export terminals.

In fact, according to government documents obtained by EarthFix, the Army Corps of Engineers has already studied the issue. And in at least one instance, it’s reached a conclusion:

Coal trains are bad for wetlands.

Port of Seattle Photo/Don Wilson

The results of an economic analysis of coal export impacts on Seattle have just been released, more than a month after they were handed over to Mayor Mike McGinn, who commissioned the report.

The report, titled City of Seattle Economic Analysis of Proposed Coal Train Operations, cost $25,000. It was completed by Community Attributes and delivered to the mayor’s office on July 10.

But McGinn did not release the report to the public until The Seattle Times filed a public records request. Then the mayor posted the study to his blog on Friday afternoon, within nine minutes of giving a copy of the report to The Seattle Times.

When asked about the delay on the July 10 report, McGinn told EarthFix and KUOW, “That wasn’t the final because my staff and others provided comments to them and they made substantial revisions after that.”

Katie Campbell

A proposal to build the West Coast’s biggest coal export terminal will face stiff environmental scrutiny.

On Wednesday a joint release from the Washington Department of Ecology, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and Whatcom County, Wash., announced they will consider climate change, human health and the environment when it comes to a coal port near Bellingham, Wash. And they’ll look at the entire route from Western mines to coal-burning plants in Asia.

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

President Barack Obama’s wide-ranging plan for action on climate change, announced Tuesday at Georgetown University, includes regulating carbon emissions from existing coal-burning power plants for the first time. In the Pacific Northwest, relatively little coal is used, but one of the region’s biggest coal consumers is sticking with its plans to keep relying on the dirtiest of all fossil fuels.

New EarthFix Documentary Explores Coal Terminal Debate

Jun 18, 2013
Flickr Photo/Adam Fagen

  Mayor Mike McGinn is in Washington, D.C., today to testify against the construction of three coal terminals in Washington state. He voiced his environmental concerns earlier today in front of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. Even more concerns have arisen now that the Army Corp of Engineers, which is in charge of reviewing the environmental impact of the terminals, has decided not to investigate green house gas emissions.

EarthFix reporters Ashley Ahearn and Katie Campbell discuss the latest coal news with David Hyde. Plus, they preview the upcoming EarthFix documentary, "COAL."

Flickr Photo/Seattle Municipal Archives

 McGinn Testifies About Coal Exports In Washington DC
The US House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a panel entitled U.S. Energy Abundance: Regulatory Market and Legal Barriers to Export." Seattle mayor Mike McGinn is in Washington DC testifying. KUOW's Ashley Ahearn reports on the latest.

Worth Listening To: A Music Recommendation
Are you stuck in a music listening rut?  We are surrounded by new music and innovative artists. Branch out! New music recommendations every Tuesday at 9:20 a.m. This time Seattle Weekly classical music writer Gavin Borchert recommends Seattle musician Hope Wechkin.

Anticipating The Big Northwest  Earthquake
There was a time, 90 years ago when the Puget Sound area was declared “earthquake-proof” by a prominent geologist. As scientists have continued to study the Northwest, however, they’ve come to realize that statement couldn’t be further from the truth. This area is in fact prone to not just earthquakes, but mega-quakes too. Sandi Doughton, science reporter for The Seattle Times explains what scientists know about the “the big one" that is due to strike the region.

Michael Werner

The federal agency in charge of approving Northwest coal export terminals delivered a setback for environmentalists, telling a congressional panel Tuesday morning that it will not be considering the area-wide effects of transporting coal, or the global impact of burning it in Asia.

Katie Campbell / Earthfix

Coal mining companies are saving tens of millions of dollars that should be going into state and federal treasuries, according to a new report by the Inspector General at the US Department of Interior.

Environmental Update With Ashley Ahearn

Jun 11, 2013
Flickr Photo/Tom Sparks

 From the Duwamish River cleanup efforts to coal terminals to chuckling frogs; David Hyde talks with KUOW and EarthFix reporter Ashley Ahearn about the latest in Northwest environmental news. Plus, Ahearn talks about EarthFix’s upcoming documentary, "Voices of Coal: And EarthFix Multimedia Special."

Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

A coalition of environmental groups in Washington and Oregon has sued BNSF Railway and several coal companies, alleging trains are dumping coal in violation of the Clean Water Act.

Katie Campbell / Earthfix

Crowdfunding campaigns are popular ways to raise money for fledgling businesses and independent projects — and now scientific research. As state and federal agencies begin the environmental review process for the largest coal export terminals on the West Coast, some scientists are turning to the public for help with research of their own.

Lamont Granquist

The debate over exporting Wyoming and Montana coal through terminals on the Northwest coast has been heating up in recent months. Those who support exporting coal say the terminals will create thousands of jobs and tax revenue for the state. Opponents have raised concerns about the potential environmental and health impacts of coal. Now, some of them are taking matters into their own hands.

EarthFix Photo/Michael Werner

Environmental reporter Ashley Ahearn has been covering the different sides of the coal debate over the last year and today on The Conversation we want to hear what you think. Ross Reynolds sits down with Ashley Ahearn to parse out the arguments for and against the proposed coal terminals in Washington, and takes listener calls. 

Katie Campbell

There are five proposed coal export terminals under consideration in Washington and Oregon. They would be built to transfer coal off of trains from Wyoming and Montana mines and on to ships bound for Asia. Some coal dust will escape along the journey from mines to terminals. In the second part of our series, Ashley Ahearn looks at the environmental impacts of coal dust.

Katie Campbell

With five coal export terminals under consideration in Washington and Oregon, Northwest residents are grappling for the first time with issues that are old hat in coal states like West Virginia and Kentucky. One of those issues: coal dust. How much of it will escape along the journey from mines in Wyoming and Montana to proposed export terminals on the West Coast? And what might that dust mean for public health?

Winning The White House In 2016

Mar 7, 2013
White House
Flickr Photo/Ivan Makarov

In an interview with Fox News earlier this week, Mitt Romney said that failing to reach minority voters was his biggest mistake of the 2012 campaign. What will it take to win the next election? UW Professor David Domke says winning over voters in so-called "carve-out states" — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — will be one key to victory. He joins us with rules of the road for winning the White House in 2016.

EarthFix Photo/Katie Campbell

Washington’s coal export terminal proposals are winning the battle for public opinion, a new survey finds. It shows half the state’s residents supporting coal exports and one-third opposed — but the results are nuanced.

ABERDEEN, Wash. – The Northwest is on the verge of becoming a gateway for crude oil. Three different developers have plans to use docks on Grays Harbor, Washington to transfer crude oil from trains to ships. Other projects are getting off the ground in Tacoma, Vancouver, B.C. and on the lower Columbia River.

There was a huge turnout Wednesday night at an introductory public workshop in Aberdeen, Washington. The response indicates crude-by-rail may be the region’s next big environmental controversy.

Energy expert Amory Lovins says the United States can replace all oil and coal by the year 2050, without nuclear power, new federal taxes or subsidies, or new inventions. At the same time, we can grow the US economy by 158 percent.

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