Washington citizens win
Thanks to the Washington State Department of Ecology for their recent announcement of a comprehensive study of environmental impacts of the proposed Longview coal export terminal.
The two current sites put forward for consideration in Washington state, Cherry Point (Bellingham), now undergoing a comprehensive environmental impact review, and the Longview site have the potential to double U.S. coal exports.
The public has expressed concern for coal dust polluting nearby waterways, ground and air as the coal travels in open rail cars from Spokane, along the Columbia River and up the Puget Sound; the related harm to human health; traffic impacts as well as the effects of coal combustion in China, on Washington state, particularly carbon and mercury pollution.
The large potential impact of these two proposed projects is being “right-sized“ to its large environmental impact. Washington’s citizens will be informed.
A recent article in the New York Times (2-13-14) by physicist Michael Riordan, author of “The Hunting of the Quark,“ a true story of modern physics, and a resident of Eastsound, Wash., discusses the subsidized prices that are paid by coal companies to strip mine this product from federal lands, public property, which once might have been justified, but with utilities converting to cheap natural gas, that is no longer the case.
Shipping this subsidized coal to Asian countries to help empower their factories, which undercut American manufacturers, makes little sense, he writes.
Riordan points to a 2012 study by the nonprofit Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis that concludes that the government’s failure to obtain fair market value for coal mined in the Powder River Basin has deprived taxpayers of almost $1 billion annually over the past 30 years.
Thus, coal companies reap windfall profits, and the burning worsens climate change. Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts advocates a moratorium on new coal leases.
As citizens of Washington state, we are most fortunate to have a Department of Ecology that looks for all the clues before hopping on the train.