By Rachel Roberts
The Gateway Pacific Terminal is a proposed multi-million dollar project that would open up Pacific Northwest ports to coal companies, allowing them to send American coal to Asia. The Gateway Pacific Terminal would be one component of the much larger Pacific International Terminals, owned by SSA Marine, Carrix and Goldman Sachs.
What many people don’t know, however, is that these proposed Northwest coal ports could have a significant impact on our environment—even greater than the predicted adverse impacts of the proposed Keystone XL development.
According to the environmental organization, Friends of the Earth, the development of Pacific Northwest coal ports would emit an alarming amount of air, water, and climate pollution, endangering not only a number of marine species, but those who live near the proposed developments as well.
West Coast environmentalists have launched an attack similar to the opposition movement against the Keystone XL development. Kimberly Larson, a spokesperson for the Power Past Coal campaign, a coalition of more than 100 environmental and community groups opposing the coal terminals, said in a statement, “Based on our back-of-the-envelope calculation, the burning of this exported coal could have a larger climate impact that all of the oil pumped through the Keystone pipeline.”
This development would add an additional 3,833 vessels to the Northwest annually. Furthermore, if all proposed coal and oil export ports are built, an additional 143 million metric tons of coal would be exported annually, as well as 1.7 million barrels of oil per day from the region. The impacts of transporting and burning oil and coal would not only significantly impact global climate change, but would also have unprecedented impacts on local environmental health.
Residents living near the rail lines that would carry coal and oil exports have already raised concerns over environmental, community, and human health. Transporting coal from Montana to the proposed Northwest ports would require a significant increase in region rail usage. Community members are concerned not only about increased rail traffic, but also other negative impacts associated with coal trains such as coal dust.
Trains transporting coal are uncovered, meaning each car loses between 500 pounds and one ton of coal during transportation. Coal dust can cause derailment for many trains, and can also cause adverse effects on human health and local waterways.
The Washington State Department of Ecology, and Army Corps of Engineers are currently preparing a draft Environmental Impact Statement. During the first half of 2016, the public will be given a second chance to comment on this development and draft EIS. Like the Keystone XL campaign, let’s get out and let our government officials know who the Pacific Northwest belongs to—the people, not the coal companies!