Coal exports from ports on the west coast of Canada and the United States

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Northwest ports to be used to export Powder River Basin coal to Asian markets

In 2010 coal companies began announcing plans for coal export terminals on the western coast to ship coal to growing markets in Asia (see map above for list of proposed terminals). Trains would originate primarily in the Powder River Basin. Plans were met with widespread grassroots opposition. By May 2013, of six coal export terminals originally proposed in the US Pacific Northwest, projects at Grays Harbor and St. Helens had been withdrawn, and a project at Coos Bay shelved. Developers are still exploring or seeking permits for terminals in Boardman, Oregon, Longview, Washington, and at Cherry Point near Bellingham, Washington.[1]

Background

In September 2010 Peabody Energy announced that "Coal's best days are ahead." Peabody stated that exports of coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming will be central to its expansion goals. The Oregonian in September 2010 reported that Northwest ports, and in particular ports in Portland, Oregon, may be used in the future to export coal to Asia. The Port of Portland said it doesn't have the space for coal exports in the short-term, but its consultants cited coal as a potential long-term market if it adds terminals on West Hayden Island.

Coal Export Threatens the Northwest.

In early November 2010 Australia-based Ambre Energy asked Cowlitz County officials in southern Washington State, which borders Oregon, to approve a port redevelopment that would allow for the export of 5 million tons of coal annually. On November 23 Cowlitz County officials approved the permit for the port redevelopment, which is to be located at the private Chinook Ventures port in Longview, Washington. Coal terminals also are proposed at two other sites along the Columbia River.[2]

Environmentalists stated that they would oppose any such actions, arguing that coal contributes to pollution and global warming.[3] Early discussion of how many jobs the port would produce was roughly twenty total.[4] Early discussion of how many jobs the port would produce was roughly twenty total.[5]

In November 2010 Powder River Basin coal producer Cloud Peak Energy CEO Colin Marshall stated that a coal port on the West Coast was "absolutely more than a pipedream."

Other Powder River Basin producers, including top US coal miner Peabody Energy, have talked about the potential for a new export facility on the West Coast, with Oregon being mentioned as the top location of choice.[6]

Groups including the Sierra Club and Columbia Riverkeeper have vowed to stop the industry's expansion into Asia, a market currently dominated by coal from Australia and Indonesia.[7]

Proposed Northwest Coal Export Locations.

In May 2011 Arch Coal announced that it was establishing a new subsidiary, Arch Coal Asia-Pacific Pte. Ltd., and named Renato Paladino president. A press release stated that Paladino will be responsible for Asia-Pacific regional business development, marketing and sales of thermal and metallurgical products, and regional supply chain expansion for the company. The new office will be located in Singapore.[8]

In June 2011 it was announced that Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer would be traveling to China to promote Montana wheat, beef, tourism and energy with an emphasis on coal. Schweitzer stated that there's potential for more Montana coal to be shipped to energy-hungry China in the coming years.[9]

Keith White, director of GE Energy’s coal gasification business in the United States stated in September 2011, "We make a majority of our money in China today. They use their coal for quality high-end products." White said that leaders in Wyoming should continue their support of coal-gasification and keep in mind the need to expand to additional markets like plastics and other refined products. He noted that a high volume of coal in China is refined into liquid byproducts "such as naphtha, and other products that are the feedstock of plastics and the Chinese garment industry."[10]

It was announced in June 2012 that U.S. coal companies were looking to boost exports through the Gulf of Mexico after meeting resistance to West Coast port expansions. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners stated that the company planned on expanding their terminals in the Gulf and the Southeast, including its Shipyard River operation in Charleston, South Carolina. Kinder announced they were planning to spend $200 million to boost capacity at the location to 8 million tons a year from 2.5 million. The project is set to be completed by 2015.[11]

EPA: coal export projects could have 'significant' public health impacts

In April 2012 the EPA stated that they desired a thorough review of the consequences of coal export through Northwest ports, staying the first project in the pipeline -- at the Port of Morrow -- "has the potential to significantly impact human health and the environment." The EPA's letter to the Army Corps of Engineers stated they wanted a "thorough and broadly scoped" environmental review. Potential problems include health impacts from coal dust and diesel emissions on train and barge trips through the Columbia River Gorge and the effects of ozone, particulates and mercury returning on trade winds after coal is burned in Asia.[12]

Citizen action

March 2011: Protesters rally in Salt Lake against coal export plan

Rainforest Action Network along with Peaceful Uprising, Utah Moms for Clean Air and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers organized a 60 person rally in from of the office of coal exporter Ambre Energy asking them to stop their development of coal export facilities in Longview, Washington.

Jim Cooksey, a representative of the union, stated of the export plan:

“We are concerned about the exporting of coal to overseas markets in that there are no environmental standards once the coal leaves our borders. The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers understands the issue of climate change and is looking to secure alliances with other labor and environmental organizations to find solutions that protect workers and the environment.“[13]

Coal Train Visits Bank of America.

April 2011: Washington college students say no to coal export plans

On April 22, 2011 Evergreen University students in Olympia celebrated Earth Day by delivering over 7,000 petition signatures gathered by Rainforest Action Network and Washington PIRG to Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office. The petition called on Gregoire to be a clean energy leader and stop coal exports in the northwest. The group also delivered a letter signed by student government associations from campuses all over Washington asking Gregoire to act on the coal exports.[14]

May 2011: Protests target banks in Portland, Oregon

On Friday, May 9th, 2011 two bank branches in downtown Portland, Oregon, one belonging to Bank of America and the other to Wells Fargo, were targeted by approximately 30 activists who showed up to protest the banks’ investments in coal projects. Both banks are major lenders to Arch Coal, the second biggest coal company in the United States. Arch Coal was targeted because, along with Ambre Energy, it is responsible for the proposed Millennium Bulk Logistics Longview Terminal near Longview, Washington. Arch Coal also owns the Otter Creek coal mine in Montana, which the company hopes to use as a source of coal to be exported.

Protesters assembled by Portland's Reed College entered the banks as mock coal export trains, which they believed will expose Northwest residents to coal dust, diesel fumes and noise pollution if the coal export facility near Longview becomes operational. A multi-car human ”coal train” entered the banks and marched around the bank's lobby, temporarily disrupting business inside. Climate activists chanted “Hey hey, B of A: Stop investing in coal today!” And later, “Hey hey, Wells Fargo: You say coal, we say no!”[15]

September 2011: Activists shine a light on Washington Coal Ports in Seattle

In September 2011 activists in Seattle shined a spotlight with a mountain background that stated, "Keep Washington Beautiful, No Coal Exports." The group, including at least on RAN activist, shined the stenciled spotlight on iconic images around the city, including the Space Needle. The group said they were protesting the proposed coal export terminals in the state, including Millennium Bulk Logistics Longview Terminal in Longview and Gateway Pacific Terminal near Ferndale, Washington.[16]

October 2011: Spokane environmentalists upset over coal trains

In October 2011 concerned environmental groups in the Spokane, Washington area held a public forum about coal trains in that are to travel through the area. The groups began speaking out about proposals that could see dozens of trains loaded with coal destined for Asia move through the city every day. The groups fear that coal dust and increased diesel emissions will damage human health, while increased rail traffic will make for more dangerous intersections.[17] The Sierra Club was involved in raising public awareness and organizing the forum.[18]

November 2011: 13 State Senators ask State to look at coal train impacts

In November 2011, 13 Washington State Senators wrote a joint letter to the Washington State DOE and Whatcom County. In their letter the senators point to potential problems including health related and adverse economic impacts that could be felt by the communities along the rail corridor which includes most of the states population. The senators explicitly request that the process examine these issues.[19]

December 2011: Montana youth call for a week of anti-coal export actions

In December 2011, students at the University of Montana called for a week of actions against coal in Missoula to occur in February 2012. For the blog "It's Getting Hot in Here", Nick Engelfried wrote:

"We, youth climate activists at the University of Montana, are calling for a regional weekend of action to protect the greater Northwest from coal exports. The action will coincide with the weekend of Rocky Mountain Power Shift, February 17th-19th. That weekend, hundreds of youth climate activists will converge on the University of Montana campus to exchange success stories, hear from movement leaders, learn from each other, and take action to promote solutions to climate change.

"On Sunday, Feb 19th, we will march through downtown Missoula to protest an increase in coal exports (this action is not officially endorsed by Power Shift in any way). We will draw attention to key politicians and industries who are financing and pushing coal export proposals."[20]

April 2012: Oregon Gov. calls for review of coal export impacts

In April 2012 Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber stated that he wants an extensive federal government review of exporting coal to Asia through Northwest ports. The Governor said that coal exports could clog barge and train routes, increase diesel and coal dust pollution and boost amounts of toxic mercury drifting back to Oregon when Asian countries burn the coal.

However, Kitzhaber didn't take a stand for or against exporting coal, which supporters say would increase rural jobs and tax revenues in Oregon and Washington. Instead, his letter asked the federal government to address how increasing exports to Asia will "fit with the larger strategy of moving to a lower carbon future."[21]

May 2012: Activists rally in Portland against exporting coal from Northwest ports

Coal Rally Against Exporting Coal Through Pacific Northwest.

On May 7, 2012 several hundred activists gathered in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square to oppose the export of Montana and Wyoming coal from Northwest ports. Activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., chief prosecuting attorney for Hudson Riverkeeper and president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, spoke to the crowd. Kennedy said that coal would corrupt politicians, damage health and the environment and "turn government agencies into the sock puppets of the industries they're supposed to regulate."[22]

May 2012: Seattle City Council opposes coal export ports

On May 29, 2012 the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing the development of coal-export terminals in Washington state after raising concerns about increased train traffic and potential harm to health and the environment. The coal would be mined in the Powder River Basin[23]

May 2012: Washington state Democrats pass export resolutions

In May 2012 Democrats in Washington passed two resolutions on coal exports in the state. One, submitted by San Juan County, asked Democrats to oppose construction of the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point. The second passed which called for a programmatic environmental impact statement to be conducted to study the potential impacts of building coal-exporting terminals throughout the Pacific Northwest, rather than one project-specific study looking at the Gateway Pacific Terminal project.[24]

July 2012: Northwest coal train traffic could spike, foes warn

On July 11, 2012 the Western Organization of Resource Councils released a report which stated that roughly 60 coal trains per day could potentially pass through cities including Billings, Montana and Spokane, Wash. Smaller increases would be seen in Seattle, Portland and other major cities across the region.

The group contested that this could tie up rail lines, cause environmental problems and leave local governments on the hook for costly rail crossing improvements.[25]

August 2012: Coal protesters occupy state Capitol to protest proposed coal mine set to export

Coal Export Action: Reclaim the Rotunda

On August 13, 2012 protesters opposed to coal development in Montana occupied the state Capitol in Helena, the first day of a week-long protest aimed at elected officials to push them to block future development leases.

The protesters, led by a Missoula based group called the Blue Skies Campaign, billed the "Coal Export Action sit-in" as a non-violent protest. The group hopes to convince the Montana Land Board to reject development of coal in eastern Montana's Otter Creek, or at a minimum delay action on the issue while more studies are undertaken. Seven activists were initially arrested but others vowed to continue their actions. However, by the end of the first week of protest a total of 23 activists were arrested.[26][27][28]

October 2012: Jobs vs. environment in Eugene coal train debate

In early October 2012 dozens of coal-train protesters on Monday evening marched to the downtown library, where the City Council heard testimony on a resolution against shipping coal through a Port of Coos Bay terminal to Asia. During the meeting a number of people spoke in favor of the measure, expressing concerns about coal dust and climate change. But the council also heard from supporters, others spoke in favor of job creation from the terminal. The council is set to vote by the end of October 2012 on the measure. On October 22, 2012 the city council of Eugene passed a resolution 5-3 opposing the coal trains.[29][30]

Industry action

In July 2012 a new trade group alliance was formed and included the three largest coal mining companies in the West. The group, called Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports, rolled out a campaign with television, radio and print ads to support exporting coal from Northwest ports.

The group is made of up 22 members including coal terminal developers, railroads, business and union groups as well as the three largest mining companies in the Powder River Basin: Peabody Energy, Arch Coal and Cloud Peak Energy.[31]

Longview terminal

Groups file appeal to port approval

On December 13, 2010, a coalition of conservation and clean energy groups, including Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, Climate Solutions, and Washington Environmental Council, challenged a permit to build a coal export terminal in Longview, Washington, the Millennium Bulk Logistics Longview Terminal. The groups stated that the facility would threaten public health and runs counter to state efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

"The county commission rubber-stamped the permit and ignored their duty to act in the best interest of the community," said Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman.

According to Earthjustice, it was the first legal challenge to US exports on coal on the West Coast of the United States.

"We expected an appeal, so we're not surprised," Joseph Cannon, chief executive officer of Millennium Bulk Logistics, the Ambre Energy subsidiary, said in a telephone interview after the appeal was filed. A trial is set for April 2011.[32]

Coalition Protests Ambre Energy's Push for Coal Exports.

In February 2012 the company reapplied for permits for 44 million tons of coal from Wyoming and Montana.[33]

Washington state intervenes in coal-export port upgrade appeal

In late December 2010 Washington state stated that officials in Washington state's Cowlitz County did not go far enough in evaluating greenhouse gas emissions from the proposed Longview port upgrade.

Washington's Department of Ecology filed a motion on December 28, 2010 to intervene in an appeal of the county's decision to allow the upgrade. The department said it wanted to ensure its concerns about greenhouse gas emissions are adequately addressed. In a statement, the department said the county's environmental review should have analyzed greenhouse gas emissions more broadly.[34]

Montana and Washington Governors meet to discuss coal exports

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, both Democrats, met on January 5, 2010 to discuss to proposed export terminal on the lower Columbia River in Washington state. Gov. Schweitzer stated that he believed that Washington state will give fair treatment to the proposal to build the terminal. The coal that would ship out of the facility would be mined in the Power River Basin of Montana and Wyoming.[35]

Arch Coal buys 38% stake in proposed Longview Port

On January 12, 2011, Arch Coal stated that it was going to buy a 38% ownership stake in the coal loading facility planned for Longview, Washington. As such, they are the first U.S. company to invest in the project. The $25 million stake in Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview, gives Arch control of nearly 2 million short tons of throughput capacity at the planned facility. Ambre Energy, the Australian-based parent company of Millennium, retained a 62% stake in the terminal.[36]

Report released outlining risks and costs of Powder River Basin coal export expansion

A report released in January 2011 by the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) titled Exporting Power River Basin Coal: Risks and Costs laid out several negative environmental impacts from expanding PRB coal mines and exports.

First, WORC noted that an increase in greenhouse gas emissions would ultimately occur, contributing to global warming, stating that "Exporting 140 million tons a year would produce roughly 280 million tons of CO2 per year." Second, WORC wrote that a coal mining increase would impact the local environment and surrounding communities, citing in particular air quality degradation due to an increase in particulate matter and land and water strains.[37]

WORC also reported that new rail lines would cause disruption to farm and ranch land and could negatively impact migratory animal corridors. More railways would also impact public safety with an increase in the potential for accidents. Diesel pollution would also increase because trucks and vehicle transportation would expand. Coal Dust was also noted as increasing due to mine expansions, which could cause harm to water and people.[37]

Documents disclosure indicate that full scope of port plan not originally conveyed

In February 2011 it was revealed that the Millennium Bulk Logistics Longview Terminal, a subsidiary of Ambre Energy, attempted to limit what state officials in Washington state knew about its long-term goals during the early permitting process for a port development in Longview, Washington in 2010. The company's initial application stated that the port would be set up to export up to five million tons of coal annually. However, court records released as part of the discovery process in a lawsuit brought about by environmental groups showed that Millennium hoped to greatly expand their operation from five million to a second phase increase to 20 million tons or even 60 million tons annually. The finding indicated that the challenge to the port is likely to increase, Earthjustice, a group involved in the original challenge, filed a request to add the new documents to its appeal of the project permit.[38]

According to internal Millennium Bulk Terminals e-mails disclosed on Feb. 24, 2011, the company hopes to export 80 million tons of coal through its proposed west of Longview terminal, nearly 15 times more than the company originally stated in its application for county permit.[39]

Critics delay Millennium Bulk's Longview coal export development, company to resubmit permit application

On March 7, 2011 Millennium Bulk announced that it was removing its coal export and related infrastructure proposal from a pending shoreline development permit for a port in Longview, Washington. The company stated that it was going to do a thorough environmental impact statement with public input before proceeding with it plans to redevelop the port for coal exports. The company acknowledged its decision was largely based on the opposition to the company's plan to export coal.[40] On March 15, 2011 Millennium Bulk stated that they would resubmit the state permit for the Longview port development after they conduct an environmental study of how much coal, cement and alumina the facility could handle at former Reynolds aluminum smelter site.[41][42]

Port of Morrow coal terminal to ship coal barges to Longview, Washington port

On May 11, 2011, the Port of Morrow Commission approved a one-year lease option with Coyote Island Terminal LLC of Salt Lake City, Utah, to build a rail off-loading coal terminal on up to 24.26 acres to transfer the coal onto barges for shipment to the Millennium Bulk Logistics Longview Terminal in Washington, and on to customers in Asia.

Millennium is a unit of Ambre Energy, a closely held mining company based in Brisbane, Australia. The properties are adjacent to the land occupied by Pacific Ethanol and ZeaChem, which is building a cellulosic ethanol test plant.

Michael Klein and Everett King of Ambre Energy North America Inc. met with commissioners in a closed session right before the board unanimously approved the lease option. It calls for Coyote Island Terminal, a subsidiary of Ambre Energy, to pay the port $60,745 during the next year to secure the option. Klein said his company will use the next year to investigate what it can do with the site, saying the project is in a very early stage, so how much coal the company might ship and to what destinations are still to be determined. Ambre Energy’s website states: “It is Ambre Energy’s intention to establish one of the few coal export facilities on the west coast of North America to provide access to growing Asia-Pacific markets for U.S. thermal coal.”

Klein said his company hopes to ship unit trains of coal to the port from the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming. The typical coal train is 100 to 120 cars long — a mile of coal. Each hopper car holds 100 to 115 tons of coal, which lasts just 20 minutes fueling a power plant.[43]

Critics of the proposed coal shipping barge state that they are concerned about coal dust spillage from the railways as the coal is transported from the mine to the port.[44]

Groups sue Millennium over alleged Clean Water Act violations

On August 9, 2011 Vancouver and Longview citizen groups announced they are suing Millenium Bulk Logistics, the owner of a proposed coal terminal in Longview. The groups contended that Millennium Bulk Terminals is violating the Clean Water Act by handling coal without a permit.

The groups in the suit that Millennium did not obtain a proper permits for stormwater and wastewater disposal while handling coal, petcoke and other materials on the location of the proposed coal terminals. Millennium has been working on a cleanup of the Columbia River site since the beginning of the year.

Millennium inherited a giant pile of petcoke from the site's former tenant, Chinook Ventures.[45]

Washington State City Council passes coal train traffic resolution

On March 17, 2012, Washougal City Council voted 7-0 to pass a resolution requesting that Washougal be a “party of record” for the Gateway Pacific Terminal Project in Whatcom county and the Millennium Project in Cowlitz county. The resolution requested that impacts along the rail line through Washougal be included in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and also urged the State Department of Ecology, the Army Cops of Engineers, as well as both Whatcom and Cowlitz counties, to conduct an EIS scoping hearing for each project in a Clark County location.[46]

EIS Review for Longview coal port proposal

It was announced in early October 2012 that a joint environmental review of the proposed coal port would be conducted by Cowlitz County, the Washington Department of Ecology and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.[47] As of October 2013 agencies seeking input on environmental reviews for export terminal proposal held public meetings on the proposed terminal.[48] The review generated more than 163,000 public comments for regulators.[49]

Gateway Pacific Terminal

The Gateway Pacific Terminal is a proposed terminal at Cherry Point near Ferndale, Washington, and would have a maximum capacity of about 54 million tons. On February 28, 2011, SSA Marine applied for state and federal permits for the $500 million terminal, triggering formal environmental review. If approved, the terminal would begin construction in early 2013 and operations in 2015.[50]

On March 1, 2011, Seattle-based SSA Marine announced it had entered into an agreement with St. Louis-based Peabody Energy to export up to 24 million metric tons of coal per year through the Gateway Pacific Terminal. SSA Marine developed a subsidiary Pacific International Terminals to develop the Gateway Pacific Terminal in 2011.[51] According to Peabody, the terminal in Whatcom County would serve as the West Coast hub for exporting Peabody's coal from the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana to Asian markets. The project would ramp up potential U.S. coal exports to Asia from Washington state. Another coal export terminal proposed in Longview, the Millennium Bulk Logistics Longview Terminal in southwest Washington, has drawn environmental opposition. That Millennium Bulk Logistics terminal would be a joint venture between Australia-based Ambre Energy and Arch Coal.[52]

Environmental groups have appealed to Washington's Shoreline Hearings Board over a permit awarded for the port by Cowlitz County commissioners.[52]

According to Gateway Pacific Terminal's website the company plans on providing a "highly efficient portal for American producers to export dry bulk commodities such as grain, potash and coal to Asian markets." Additionally, the site contends that the "Gateway project will generate about 4,000 jobs and about $54 million a year in tax revenue for state and local services. Once in full operation, it's estimated that Gateway will provide almost $10 million a year in tax revenue, create about 280 permanent family-wage jobs directly, and nearly 1,400 additional jobs through terminal purchases and employee spending."[53]

During a meeting on May 19, 2011 grain producers and shippers gathered at the Silver Reef Hotel and Casino Pavilion to learn about SSA Marine's plans for the Gateway Pacific Terminal project at Cherry Point. SSA was the sponsor the event. During the meeting SSA insisted that the port development would include grain shipment capabilities, which would open up the grain belt to Asian markets. SSA claimed that a demand for U.S. grain will soar in the years ahead and U.S. farmers will need more West Coast port capacity to meet that growing demand.[54]

During the week of June 6-10, 2011 SSA Marine filed a permit application the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal. The application read:

"The applications submitted herein will cover the difference in scope between that approved project and our full buildout plan."

The earlier permit was noted in the application was approved by the Whatcom County Council in 1997. At that time, it envisioned a 180-acre development that would handle 8.2 million tons of cargoes per year, including petroleum coke (produced by local refineries) iron ore, sulfur, potash and wood chips. Coal was not mentioned an an export commodity in the earlier permit.[55]

Later in June 2011, Whatcom County officials announced that SSA must apply for a new permit for its proposed Gateway Terminal.[56]

April 2011: Public Debate on Cherry Point Coal Terminal

On April 27, 2011 a debate on the proposed port terminal at Cherry Point was held at the Bellingham City Club drew a crowed of 350 people. Supporters of the proposed $400 million project at addressed job creation — up to 213 to 280 permanent longshore jobs they stated.

Opponents, an increasing segment of the city, want to talk about the impact of an additional 18 to 20 trains every day, a mile-and-a-half long and very loud and heavy, running through some of the city's most valuable property.[57]

"We have established an industrial area for a reason, to generate high wage jobs that fuel our economy," said Craig Cole, a Bellingham business leader, University of Washington regent and consultant to the terminal's builder SSA Marine.

But Bob Ferris, a project opponent, warned that the terminal would bring mile-and-a-half-long trains through Bellingham -- "30 miles of additional trains a day" -- and do local and global environmental damage.

"Coal is, bar none, the worst fossil fuel on the planet," said Ferris, a Whatcom County newcomer and leader of a group called Resources for Sustainable Communities. Ferris also noted that an increase in train traffic through Bellingham could bring "30 miles of additional trains a day".[58]

April 2011: Public Debate on Cherry Point Coal Terminal

On April 27, 2011 a debate on the proposed port terminal at Cherry Point was held at the Bellingham City Club drew a crowed of 350 people. Supporters of the proposed $400 million project at addressed job creation — up to 213 to 280 permanent longshore jobs they stated.

Opponents, an increasing segment of the city, want to talk about the impact of an additional 18 to 20 trains every day, a mile-and-a-half long and very loud and heavy, running through some of the city's most valuable property.[59]

"We have established an industrial area for a reason, to generate high wage jobs that fuel our economy," said Craig Cole, a Bellingham business leader, University of Washington regent and consultant to the terminal's builder SSA Marine.

But Bob Ferris, a project opponent, warned that the terminal would bring mile-and-a-half-long trains through Bellingham -- "30 miles of additional trains a day" -- and do local and global environmental damage.

"Coal is, bar none, the worst fossil fuel on the planet," said Ferris, a Whatcom County newcomer and leader of a group called Resources for Sustainable Communities. Ferris also noted that an increase in train traffic through Bellingham could bring "30 miles of additional trains a day".[60]

May 2011: Bellingham Mayor takes heat from anti-coal community

On May 4, during a public forum on the proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point in Bellingham, Washington, City Mayor Dan Pike drew criticism from anti-coal activists in the community for staying neutral on the controversial plan to ship tons of coal through the town. When asked whether he supported allowing the coal trains in Whatcom County, Pike stated he would not take a stand for or against because it was a complex question that had to do with national policy.

In response, one angry audience member shouted from the back of the room: “You’re a wimp.” More than 200 people packed into the Bellingham High School commons to attend the forum put on by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, Climate Solutions and the Sierra Club. The majority of those in attendance seemed to be in opposition to the mine.[61]

May 2011: Bellingham Mayor takes heat from anti-coal community

On May 4, 2011 during a public forum on the proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point in Bellingham, Washington, City Mayor Dan Pike drew criticism from anti-coal activists in the community for staying neutral on the controversial plan to ship tons of coal through the town. When asked whether he supported allowing the coal trains in Whatcom County, Pike stated he would not take a stand for or against because it was a complex question that had to do with national policy.

In response, one angry audience member shouted from the back of the room: “You’re a wimp.” More than 200 people packed into the Bellingham High School commons to attend the forum put on by RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, Climate Solutions and the Sierra Club. The majority of those in attendance seemed to be in opposition to the mine.[62]

June 2011: Coal terminal foes dominate Bellingham hearing

On June 1, 2011, more than 300 people turned out for Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike's community meeting to discuss concerns about the environmental effects from the Gateway Pacific Terminal coal and bulk cargo export terminal at Cherry Point.

Most of those who spoke at the meeting stated their determined opposition to the Gateway Pacific project for a wide range of reasons: health effects from coal dust and ship and locomotive emissions; climate change from the burning of exported coal in China; disruption of waterfront redevelopment plans because of excessive train traffic through the city; reduced property values from railroad dirt and noise; and a black eye for Bellingham's image as a green community.[63]

June 2011: Bellingham Mayor opposes Gateway Pacific Terminal project

In a press release in early June 2011 Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike stated that he was coming out in opposition to the Cherry Point port expansion. Mayor Pike wrote:

My team and I met recently with representatives of SSA Marine and their main business partners, the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad. I hoped they would bring to the conversation recognition that their proposed project would have multiple downsides for our community. I hoped they would make a commitment to provide meaningful mitigations — or even better– a willingness consider other commodities, and not rely exclusively on coal exports for the terminal’s financial engine.
Instead, these proponents brought denial of any potential harms and blatant defiance that they should change their plans in any way. In fact, it has become public knowledge that they have signed a multi-year deal with Montana’s Peabody Coal to ship at least 24 million tons of coal from our sensitive shores as their major focus of business for the foreseeable future.
That is not a future that I want to see. By any calculation, the proposed coal-dependent terminal at Cherry Point does not add up.[64]

June 2011: Coal terminal foes dominate Bellingham hearing

On June 1, 2011, more than 300 people turned out for Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike's community meeting to discuss concerns about the environmental effects from the Gateway Pacific Terminal coal and bulk cargo export terminal at Cherry Point.

Most of those who spoke at the meeting stated their determined opposition to the Gateway Pacific project for a wide range of reasons: health effects from coal dust and ship and locomotive emissions; climate change from the burning of exported coal in China; disruption of waterfront redevelopment plans because of excessive train traffic through the city; reduced property values from railroad dirt and noise; and a black eye for Bellingham's image as a green community.[65]

June 2011: Bellingham Mayor opposes Gateway Pacific Terminal project

In a press release in early June 2011 Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike stated that he was coming out in opposition to the Cherry Point port expansion. Mayor Pike wrote:

My team and I met recently with representatives of SSA Marine and their main business partners, the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad. I hoped they would bring to the conversation recognition that their proposed project would have multiple downsides for our community. I hoped they would make a commitment to provide meaningful mitigations — or even better– a willingness consider other commodities, and not rely exclusively on coal exports for the terminal’s financial engine.
Instead, these proponents brought denial of any potential harms and blatant defiance that they should change their plans in any way. In fact, it has become public knowledge that they have signed a multi-year deal with Montana’s Peabody Coal to ship at least 24 million tons of coal from our sensitive shores as their major focus of business for the foreseeable future.
That is not a future that I want to see. By any calculation, the proposed coal-dependent terminal at Cherry Point does not add up.[66]

June 2011: Whatcom County rejects Gateway Pacific cargo permit

In June 2011 it was announced that developers of the Gateway Pacific Terminal must apply for a new shoreline permit if they want to build a facility capable of handling up to 54 million tons of cargo a year, including coal. The decision came from Whatcom County planners and was a setback to SSA Marine which proposed to build the terminal at Cherry Point, Washington. SSA Marine holds a 1997 permit for a smaller facility that could handle up to 8.2 million tons of cargo a year, not including coal. The company argued that the larger coal export facility would require processing the application as a "revision" to the existing permit, and that the revisions would undergo the same level of scrutiny as a new application.

Environmental groups represented by Earthjustice stated that the application as a revision would require less public scrutiny and would mean the project could avoid tough environmental standards because it would be reviewed under 1992 shorelines laws instead of more recent ones. The groups included Sierra Club, Climate Solutions, and ReSources for Sustainable Communities.

Whatcom County sent the letter announcing their decision on June 23, 2011. The letter, from county Planning Supervisor Tyler Schroeder, said a new shorelines permit is required under county law because the new proposal is "beyond the scope and intent of the original approval." County code requires that it meet that standard for a permit revision, he said.[67]

July 2011: Public meeting discusses Cherry Point coal terminal project

On July 7, 2011 more than 300 residents turned out for a forum at Lincoln Theatre in Mount Vernon, Washington to discuss the construction of a $600 million cargo terminal at Cherry Point in Bellingham. The facility would bring an estimated 18 more trains a day carrying coal shipments would cross Skagit and Whatcom counties to the new facility.

The forum was organized by environmental groups from Skagit County and the region, who said allowing the project to go through would cause local traffic problems, create air pollution and contribute to global warming.[68]

July 2011: State to help handle a coal port proposal

It was reported on July 19, 2011 that The Washington Department of Ecology was to step in and help with the environmental review of a proposed Cherry Point coal terminal project, and assume a co-lead role on the review at the request of Whatcom County, which has the statutory responsibility to do the environmental assessment. It was a step sought by opponents of the coal terminal who feared having the study under the sole control of Whatcom County. Whatcom County had also asked the state for assistance.[69]

August 2011: Doctors oppose coal terminal

In August 2011 it was reported that 160 doctors and health professionals in the Bellingham area signed a letter expressing concern about pollution from a proposed new terminal near them that would also export coal.[70] The group, calling itself Whatcom Docs, contended that both coal dust and diesel emissions from trains and ships have been shown to have harmful impacts on human health. The group stated that they want a specific study on how Gateway Pacific, proposed by SSA Marine of Seattle, would impact health in Whatcom County and other places along the rail line.[71]

August 2011: SSA Marine builds illegal coal terminal road

It was reported on August 1, 2011 that Washington State's Whatcom County prepared to fine Seattle-based company SSA Marine after it claimed the company built a series of roads through sensitive woodlands without a proper permit.

The company stated its two miles of dirt road it built was necessary to allow heavy equipment to conduct environmental impact studies in the area of the proposed terminal.

A company spokesman says SSA Marine stated it was permitted to build the roads based on a permit it received for a separate terminal in 1997.[72]

In August 2011 the Department of Natural Resources confirmed that crews worked for SSA Marine had illegally cleared forestland without a permit, Whatcom County must impose a six-year development moratorium on the property, according to environmental attorneys opposed to the project.

SSA Marine's crews cleared land there without permits recently, and the company apologized. It was fined by Whatcom County. The DNR recently issued a notice to comply, saying the company didn’t have the required Forest Practices Application/Notification before doing the work.

According to a letter from an attorney for Earthjustice to Whatcom County planners, the county must impose a development ban on the SSA project for six years. Earthjustice stated that county code requires the ban after forest clearing is done without a permit. The result of the ban is that the county cannot accept an application for a project. As of August 16, 2011 Whatcom County had not decided on what sanctions, if any, they will impose on SSA Marine.[73]

October 2011: Group to sue SSA Marine over land clearing for Cherry Point project

It was announced in October 2011 that RE Sources for Sustainable Communities filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue Pacific International Terminals, Inc., SSA Marine's subsidiary corporation that was created to develop the proposed shipping terminal at Cherry Point.

RE Sources Executive Director Bob Ferris contended that SSA Marine violated the Clean Water Act when it cleared trees on the terminal site. Company spokesmen have admitted that the company was wrong in clearing roadways for geotechnical drilling equipment without obtaining permits to do so.[74]

November 2011: 13 State Senators ask State to look at coal train impacts

In November 2011, 13 Washington State Senators wrote a joint letter to the Washington State DOE and Whatcom County. In their letter the senators point to potential problems including health related and adverse economic impacts that could be felt by the communities along the rail corridor which includes most of the states population. The senators explicitly request that the process examine these issues.[75]

December 2011: University students oppose proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal

On December 1, 2011 it was announced that the Western Washington's Associated Students (AS) board of directors voted 4-3 in opposition of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal. The Western Action Coalition is a student environmental group at the university and reorganized as AS in October 2011. The University of Puget Sound-Tacoma passed its own resolution opposing the project on October 20, 2011. Students at other universities, such as Evergreen State College in Olympia, were reported as working on similar resolutions.[76]

Port of Morrow in Boardman, Oregon

On May 11, 2011, the Port of Morrow Commission approved a one-year lease option with Coyote Island Terminal LLC of Salt Lake City, Utah, to build a rail off-loading coal terminal on up to 24.26 acres to transfer the coal onto barges for shipment to the Millennium Bulk Logistics Longview Terminal in Washington, and on to customers in Asia. Millennium is a unit of Ambre Energy, a closely held mining company based in Brisbane, Australia.

Coal Export Threatens the Northwest.

Michael Klein and Everett King of Ambre Energy North America Inc. met with commissioners in a closed session right before the board unanimously approved the lease option. It calls for Coyote Island Terminal LLC, a subsidiary of Ambre Energy, to pay the port $60,745 during the next year to secure the option. Klein said his company hopes to ship unit trains of coal to the port from the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming. The typical coal train is 100 to 120 cars long — a mile of coal. Each hopper car holds 100 to 115 tons of coal, which lasts just 20 minutes fueling a power plant.[77]

In May 2013, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued draft permits regulating coal dust at the Coyote Island Terminal at the Port of Morrow. The department will hold public hearings on the air and water pollution permits July 2013, and there is no specific date for final permits. Two of the permits are designed to control the release of coal dust into the air and water while it is being handled. A third permit covers potential erosion during construction. The project is still awaiting a permit for dock construction from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.[78]

Port of St. Helens potential candidate for coal export to Asia

In June 2011, The Oregonian reported that the Port of St. Helens in Columbia City, Oregon was being eyed as a potential Northwest port that would export coal to Asian countries. It was also reported that Columbia Riverkeeper, which opposes coal export, asked a judge to require St. Helens Port to release all of its coal-related documents. In a response, a lawyer for the port stated that doing so would violate a confidentiality agreement and "would result in the greatest harm to the public interest which can be imagined -- a loss of jobs in our community."[79]

Oregon Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber, wrote in a statement to The Oregonian that the terminal "should not happen in the dead of night. We must have an open, vigorous public debate before any projects move forward." The coal would come laregly from Powder River Basin coal mines.[79]

In January 2012 The Oregonian reported that Kinder Morgan Energy Partners would develop a dry bulk export terminal at the Port of St. Helens' Port Westward industrial park, using rail lines and building facilities to store and load coal.

Ambre Energy also announced that their subsidiary Pacific Transloading would ship 3.5 million metric tons of coal a year with potential to ship as much as 8 million metric tons with port approval. Coal would be shipped on covered barges, received at Port Westward and directly loaded onto about 50 ocean-going ships a year. Pacific Transloading would ship 3.5 million metric tons of coal a year with potential to ship as much as 8 million metric tons with port approval the company stated.[80]

In January 2012 it was reported that the proposed coal terminal at Port Westward was forcing Rainier-area officials to examine whether they needed to expand rail lines through the heart of town to accommodate hundreds of rail cars daily.[81]

However, May 2, 2012 Portland General Electric blocked Kinder Morgan’s multimillion-dollar proposal to construct a coal export terminal because of concerns over coal dust. PGE renewed a 99-year lease in 2008 on 852 acres of developable land at the Port of St. Helens-owned energy park near Clatskanie, Oregon. In turn, it can sublease the Port Westward property to other companies. However, in early May 2012 PGE denied the request by Kinder Morgan to construct a terminal on the site.[82]

Port cancelled

In May 2013 Kinder Morgan announced it was dropping its plan to build a $200-million facility at Port Westward in Oregon, saying it could not be configured optimally to handle export of up to 30 million tons of coal a year.[83]

Port of Coos Bay in Oregon considers coal exports

In July 2011, it was reported that the port in Coos Bay, Oregon was considering coal exports. "We are in discussions with coal developers and have entered into nondisclosure agreements with those companies," Port of Coos Bay CEO Jeff Bishop. "We don't want anyone to be surprised."

Bishop stated the arrival of one coal train per day would create 100 ship calls per year. However, coal exports would bring too many ships for the cargo terminal to handle, stated Bishop. "If any coal terminal is developed in Coos Bay, it would have to be a stand-alone terminal." The coal would largely come from Powder River Basin coal mines.[84] It was announced in October 2011 the Port of Coos Bay signed an exclusive negotiating agreement with an unnamed company interested in shipping coal from Coos Bay, Oregon.[85]

Shipping coal to Asia from Coos Bay is okay with U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio

In August 2012 Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio said he has few qualms about shipping coal to Asia through the Port of Coos Bay. Rep. Peter DeFazio said that trying to block plans to ship coal to Asia won't stop countries like South Korea from burning coal to produce electricity. He added that free trade agreements make it illegal for the U.S. to block coal exports to South Korea.[86]

Plans shelved

On April 1, 2013, the Port of Coos Bay said it had ended its exclusive negotiating agreement with Metro Ports of California for a coal export terminal. According to the group Coos Waterkeeper, the port may still pursue coal export, but expensive rail improvements needed to accommodate coal trains make the prospects "highly unlikely."[87]

Port of Grays Harbor in Washington State for coal exports

It was reported in July 2011 that a railroad was looking at a Port of Grays Harbor terminal in Hoquiam, Washington for a terminal to ship coal to China. RailAmerica Vice Predident Gary Lewis told The Daily World of Aberdeen the idea would require further study and the project is several years from being completed.

In August 2011 it was announced that RailAmerica was canceling its plan for a coal storage and export facility at the port's Terminal 3. The company said they believed there are other uses for the terminal that are more likely to generate jobs, tax revenues and business for the port and for the company, said Gary Lewis. As such plans to export coal from Grays Harbor were cancelled.[88]

Legislation and litigation

Cloud Peak sues Ambre Energy

Ambre Energy was sued by Cloud Peak Energy in July 2012. In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Montana, the company alleged that Ambre's export plans to ship coal to Asian markets from the company's Decker Mine were developed without Cloud Peak's approval. The company is asking the court to remove Ambre as the mine's manager.[89]

Railroad issues

Coal train spill through Columbia River Gorge

In July 2012 a train transporting coal derailed and spilled 31 cars of coal in the Eastern Washington town of Mesa, near the Oregon border in Franklin County. Opponents of increased coal shipments through the Northwest pointed to the spill as an example of the risk posed by increased coal transports through the region.[90][91]

RailAmerica owns the Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad that serves Grays Harbor. The port's potential coal export terminal, located on a former log yard, could bring another 75 ship calls a year to Grays Harbor.[92]

Total CO2 emissions of Alberta's tar sands versus U.S. coal exports

In 2011, the group Sightline calculated the carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. coal exports versus Alberta's tar sands, and found projected emissions from coal exports to be substantially higher (the estimate did not count the emissions associated with mining, transport, construction, or any other related activities, nor any non-CO2 or fugitive emissions, to allow for a more simple, straightforward comparison.)

Coal exports: The calculation assumed that 110 million tons of Powder River Basin coal are exported each year, consistent with the 60 million tons planned for the Millennium Bulk Logistics Longview Terminal and the 50 million for Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point, Washington (this is probably a low estimate: Longview project sponsors have been found using an 80 million ton figure, and there are talks of other Coal exports from ports on the west coast of Canada and the United States, such as Grays Harbor, Washington; St. Helens, Oregon; and Coos Bay, Oregon.) The estimate assumed that Powder River Basin coal generates 8,500 BTUs per pound, and that one million BTUs would produce 212.7 pounds of CO2, consistent with U.S. Department of Energy figures. The final calculation was 199 million tons of CO2 per year in “direct” emissions from the coal exports

Tar sands: To calculate the CO2 emissions from the Keystone XL Pipeline, it was assumed that the pipeline moved 830,000 barrels of oil per day, in line with U.S. State Department figures, working out to about 303 million barrels per year. It was then assumed that each barrel of oil contains 0.43 metric tons of C02, which the U.S. EPA assigns for an “average” barrel of oil (direct emissions from burning are the same regardless if it's oil or tar sands), which works out to about 144 million short tons of CO2 per year for direct emissions from burning the oil. To account for the particular crudeness of tar sands oil, the emissions that are associated with extracting and processing it for use were factored using figures from David Strahan, Wikipedia, and other sources; it was assumed that extracting the oil and “upgrading” to make it suitable for refining results in somewhere around 18 to 26 percent more carbon emissions than the direct emissions from burning the fuel itself. A mid-point of that range, 21.7 percent, was used, and added up to 31 million tons of CO2, for a combined direct and indirect emissions total of 175 million short tons of CO2 per year for the pipeline oil.[93]

Resources

References

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