Millennium Coal Hearing in Longview, WA Draws 1k+ Attendees

13238996_1047142635367267_2596916205238646667_nBy Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, Senior Organizer

Thank you. The coal export campaign is bigger and more diverse today than ever before. We’ve traveled, testified, rallied and had meaningful conversations about a healthier, safer and cleaner future together. You’ve made an difference.

Over 1,000 people came together yesterday (May 24, 2016) and stood up against Big (bankrupt) Coal in Longview. We out-testified the opposition 3:1 and brought together amazing community, elected, tribal, fishing, ranching, and health professional voices. Your testimony was educated, thoughtful and passionate. Thank you for representing the Pacific Northwest so well!

Hearings like that don’t happen overnight. Thousands of volunteer hours went towards phone banking, canvassing, and tabling. There were more people than stars in the sky that helped – in some way – to make the draft Environmental Impact Statement hearing in Longview a success. And we’re not done: Spokane’s hearing is tomorrow (May 26, 2016) and Pasco will shine on June 2nd!

Plus, we have until June 13th to submit comments in opposition to the LAST coal export terminal on the west coast of the United States. And every day is a good day to write a letter to the editor! Use the press release below for talking points!

Thank you everyone for being part of something great! Onward!

Here are some great videos and photos from the hearing.

Running list of media coverage:

OVERWHELMING MAJORITY FROM AROUND REGION TURN OUT TO SAY NO TO LARGEST COAL EXPORT TERMINAL IN NORTH AMERICA

First Public Hearing Shows Diverse Voices in Opposition Given Broad Impacts From Local to Global

(Longview, WA)–Tuesday, May 24, 2016, kicked off the first of three public hearings regarding the proposed coal export terminal at Longview, WA with over 1,000 residents from Washington, Oregon and Montana attending the hearing. An overwhelming majority of the attendees demonstrated their opposition by wearing red, creating a “sea of red” in the hearing room.

Washington State’s Department of Ecology, Cowlitz County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are considering the proposal by Millennium Bulk Logistics to build a 44 million ton coal export terminal in Longview and recently released their draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The agencies received over 200,000 public comments calling for a broad review of the proposed coal export terminal. The project would sit in close proximity to the Columbia River, the second largest river in North America and one that both Oregon and Washington rely on for commerce, recreation and tourism. It would also mean unprecedented impacts, from local to global.

“Millennium is a roadblock, a “riverblock” to Longview’s future. Air quality, community health choices and recreation drive decisions on where to raise a family,” said Mary Lyons, president of Landowners and Citizens for a Safe Community. “We want a cleaned up industrial waterfront that attracts stronger, healthier businesses and young, forward-thinking families. Mountains of coal dust would sabotage all the work we’ve been doing to attract those two crucial components. The community outreach we’ve conducted over the years proves that residents want safe and healthy futures for their families, not coal trains, diesel clouds and deadly, microscopic dust.”

“The salmon are the heart and soul of the Columbia River.  But our increasingly hot ocean and river temperatures are hitting lethal levels. Last year we lost over 90 of our sockeye and over half our coho disappeared as well,” said Bob Rees, Executive Director of the Northwest Steelheaders Association. “When we lose our salmon, we lose the tourism and recreation economy, and we lose a healthy local sustainable food source. We know climate change is driving the diving the salmon population, and there’s no quicker way we can make a difference than ending our addiction to coal. Anglers oppose coal because it directly pollutes our waters with every train that rolls through the Gorge and every smokestack it lights up overseas. We’ll either have more salmon or more coal in our future, but they’re not compatible. We’ll do whatever it takes to make sure we have more salmon in the river and keep more coal in the ground.”

The public comment period for the EIS happens while coal prices and the coal industry continue the further decline of the last several years.  Over the past five years, U.S. coal production has plummeted by more than 40 percent as power plants have been shuttered around the country and utilities move to cheaper and cleaner energy alternatives including solar and wind power. The four largest U.S. coal producers were worth a combined $34 billion in 2011 as global commodity prices peaked; today, their market cap is less than $150 million and three of the four (including Arch Coal, who has a 38 percent stake in the terminal and is the second-largest coal producer in the country) have declared bankruptcy.

“It’s important for the Northwest to really understand the true numbers in the heated argument over jobs. Their promise of jobs hinges on investing in one of the riskiest markets and gambling with our local economic future,”   said Dana Minium, a 50 year resident of Cowlitz County and business owner. Dana owns Solo Storage, Clearwater Solutions and Clearwater Moorage LLC. Solo Storage and Clearwater and testified during the hearing.

The EIS does not include impacts to communities beyond Washington State’s borders, so several Montana residents came to Longview to remind agency officials and others at the hearing that those living and working close to the mines would experience increased impacts as well.

“Anyone who says we would prosper from coal is ignoring the state of the coal industry. Anyone who says we can’t have economic development while protecting our land, water, and culture isn’t trying hard enough,” stated Alaina Buffalo Spirit of the Alaina Buffalo Spirit, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in southeastern Montana who traveled to Longview for the hearing. “A coal port in Longview threatens to open new mining that would damage our ancestral lands, water, and way of life. We need to deny this port and protect our Northern Cheyenne home. Our grandchildren are depending on us to make the right decision.”

“Coal seams are also the aquifers that hold the water we depend on to maintain our livelihoods. Additional coal mining would threaten our water supply and southeastern Montana’s agricultural economy,” said Brad Sauer, who also traveled from Montana to the hearing. Sauer is a cattleman who operates in Rosebud County, south of the town of Colstrip and its 2100 MW coal-fired power plants and north of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.

The Department of Ecology’s draft Environmental Impact Statement reports that if built, the terminal would significantly increase train traffic to up 16 coal trains per day. The agencies predict increased coal dust and pollution from the trains and coal piles. Cowlitz County asthma rates are very high and stand out as the second highest in Washington Statex – nearly 10 percent of Cowlitz County residents, including children, suffer from respiratory illnesses like asthma and COPD.   Until a few years ago, BNSF documented on its own website that as much as 500 pounds of coal dust can escape each rail car.  A recent UW health-study confirmed that coal trains release twice as much diesel pollution as freight trains, as they are the longest and heaviest type of train on the rails, so all along the rail-route communities living closer to the tracks would experience increased pollution.

“Immigrants living closest to the train tracks and terminals would experience some of the worst effects of diesel and coal dust pollution from coal trains and the coal terminal. Like many immigrants, I made great sacrifices to come to Washington because of its reputation for a high quality of life, clean air, and clean water,” stated Glicerio Zurita, a resident of Vancouver, WA and an organizer for OneAmerica. “It would be very sad for me to see the state of Washington take a step backwards by allowing the coal industry to bring coal trains and terminals into our communities.”

If built, the agencies predict the project would increase greenhouse gas emissions with at least 37.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent at least five or more coal fired power plants.

“We are past compost. We are past recycling. It is now time to move past fear based upon ignorance and change policy. Let us use our voices, alter our cultural mythology, and move into a cleaner, safer planet,” stated Dae Dahlquist, an eleven-year old student and Southwest Washington resident.

This is the last coal export project standing in the Northwest. The coal industry has shelved or pulled the plans for three other export terminals in the Northwest, and agencies have denied permits for two others, notably on May 9th the Army Corps denied a key permit at Cherry Point for a 48 million ton coal terminal. While there are two other proposals to export coal off the West coast, one for up to eight million tons in British Columbia and another for up to eight million tons out of Oakland, CA, this is the last big proposal left in the Northwest and is the largest by far.   Comment period closes Monday June 13th Millennium originally submitted permits in 2010 for a much smaller terminal, but news outlets revealed they failed to disclose the scope of their plans for the project to the community in the first round of permitting and had to pull their original permits.

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POWER PAST COAL is an ever-growing alliance of health, environmental, clean-energy, faith and community groups and businesses working to stop coal export off the West Coast.  Powerpastcoal.org


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