coal

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.

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