U.S. coal exports

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US coal exports increased rapidly in 2011, returning to levels not seen since the early 1990s,[1] and accelerating to keep up with rapidly rising global demand.

The U.S. is the world's fourth-largest source of coal exports in the world, after Australia, Indonesia and Russia (1st, 2nd and 3rd, respectively). Unused port capacity on the east coast and major expansions proposed for the west coast mean that U.S. coal exports could rapidly overtake Indonesia and Russia.

Environmental concerns about rising coal production primarily include the global impacts of increased CO2 build-up as well as air, water and toxic waste pollution that is inevitably a product of coal use.

“Because the impacts of CO2 emissions are global in nature, it makes no difference from a climate change perspective whether coal mined in Wyoming is consumed in Chicago or Shanghai,” said a July, 2011 report by the Columbia Law School’s Center for Climate Change. “With coal export volumes poised to increase dramatically in the near- to medium-term, circumstances call for more comprehensive legal and policy response.” [2]

One short-term factor driving up US coal exports in 2011 was extensive flooding in Australia that delayed coking coal shipments to Asian countries for steel production.[3] But this is only the beginning, industry analysts say.

Longer term factors include the contrast between declining US demand for coal and increasing European and strong rising Asian demand.

US domestic demand for coal will probably decrease from the current 44 percent of US electrical production to as low as 22 percent within the next 20 years, according to some analysts. Demand in the U.S. is dropping primarily due to new natural gas reserve discoveries and Clean Air Act regulations. [4]

In contrast, demand for coal is rapidly rising in Asia. U.S. coal exports to China surged from 2009 to 2010, jumping from 387,000 tons (January-September) to over 4 million tons the following year. Demand for US coking and steam coal also grew rapidly in Japan, India, and South Korea. Industry forecasters anticipate a “30-year super cycle in global coal markets.” U.S. companies hope to cash in on the market and dramatically increase coal exports, especially from the Powder River Basin (PRB) of Wyoming and Montana through ports on the US west coast. [5]

U.S. coal exports rose 49 percent during the first quarter of 2011 compared to the previous quarter, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration the .[6]

In November 2011 the DOE reported that six seaports on the Gulf Coast and East Coast of the United States account for the bulk of the country's coal exports. Additionally the report noted, "Six seaports accounted for 94% of U.S. coal exports in 2010, up from 63% in 2000. Over 68% of total U.S. coal exports in 2010 were coking coal, which is used in making iron and steel. Steam coal, used to generate electricity, comprised the remaining 32% of exports."[7]

In 2011 US exported 107,259 thousand short tons of coal. This was the highest level of coal exports since 1991. More impressive: exports recorded a more than 25% leap compared to the previous year, 2010.[8][9]

It was reported in 2012 that coal exports in the United States were on track to set a new annual record, surpassing the previous all-time high set in 1981 of 113 million short tons.[10][11]

Contents

Net US Coal Exports and Imports

Year Exports Imports Net exports %Change Net
2005 49,942 30,460 19,482
2006 49,647 36,246 13,401 -31%
2007 59,163 36,347 22,816 70%
2008 81,519 34,208 47,311 107%
2009 59,097 22,639 36,458 -23%
2010 81,716 19,353 62,363 71%
2011* 106,468 13,524 92,944 49%

Notes: Thousand short tons per year exported; Percentage change in net exports from previous year. 2011 projected from first quarter data. Source: US Energy Information Administration, Dept. of Energy, July 2011.[12]

US coal exports by destination (1st quarter comparisons)

  • Note the rapid rise in European imports of US steam coal -- from 1.5 million tons in the first quarter of 2010 to 4.9 million tons in the first quarter of 2011.
  • A similar rise in steam coal exports is starting in the Asian market -- from 1.3 to 2.3 million tons comparing the same periods.
Country Coking - 2010 Coking - 2011 Steam - 2010 Steam - 2011
North America Total 1,245,912 461,541 455,145 498,983
Canada1 1,148,996 255,391 345,146 309,302
Mexico 96,916 182,610 77,133 118,640
Other2 1,245,912 23,540 32,866 71,041
South America Total 1,749,954 2,197,197 256,174 555,790
Argentina 105,376 96,942 92 513
Brazil 1,644,578 2,100,255 1,332 138,871
Chile 0 0 249,470 410,929
Other 0 0 5,280 5477
Europe Total 6,583,322 7,781,356 1,522,002 4,931,208
Belgium 270,263 489,678 14,756 145,470
Croatia 227,709 391,359 0 148,073
Denmark 0 84,689
France 242,785 356,916 329,366 494,908
Germany 348,098 546,809 166,314 899,009
Italy 616,834 903,957 127,541 222,999
Latvia 105,490 42,782 0 78,337
Netherlands 1,025,836 1,188,000 334,628 1,120,742
Norway 15,770 26,534 5,519 12,293
Poland 552,214 332,559 72,034 174
Portugal 0 0 79,135 243,631
Romania 214,673 423,328 0 0
Slovenia 166,946 233,840 0 0
Spain 288,714 399,710 142,077 155,104
Sweden 0 60,861 - -
Turkey 576,329 616,602 84,356 310,173
Ukraine 840,441 1,040,404 0 0
United Kingdom 852,368 417,118 159,280 852,159
Other 238,852 310,899 6,996 163,447
Asia Total 3,468,257 6,334,652 1,317,392 2,364,013
China 1,454,877 1,548,012 754,266 505,632
India 518,351 994,731 113 231,664
Japan 693,772 2,699,176 1,596 118,844
Korea, South 772,567 1,092,733 471,908 1,501,091
Other 28,690 0 7,087 6,782
Africa Total 229,975 390,711 77,088 935,565
Egypt 81,203 243,961 4,271 163,357
Morocco 0 69,935 70,513 771,991
South Africa 148,772 76,815 21 211
Other 0 0 2,283 6
World Total 13,277,420 17,165,457 3,628,462 9,451,700
  • First quarter 2011 and 2010 figures. Thousand short tons per year exported.
  • Source: US Energy Information Administration, Dept. of Energy, July 2011.[13]

Metallurgical Coal Exports by U.S. Customs District

Port Location 2010 2011 % change
Eastern Total 40,735,672 53,311,844 31%
Baltimore, MD 10,940,800 15,593,364 43%
Buffalo, NY 991,082 315,652 -68%
New York, NY
Norfolk, VA 28,799,148 37,398,916 30%
Ogdensburg, NY 4,384 3,912 -11%
Southern Total 12,378,940 14,647,984 18%
Laredo, TX 291,028 0 -100%
Miami, FL 0 2,176
Mobile, AL 9,397,722 10,122,180 8%
New Orleans, LA 2,690,112 4,523,628 68%
Northern Total 1,796,494 702,000 -61%
Cleveland, OH 1,585,590 696,104 -56%
Detroit, MI 210,904 5,896 -97%
Total 54,911,106 68,661,828 25%
  • Notes: Thousand short tons per year exported. 2010 first and last quarter data adjusted. 2011 projected from first quarter data. Also,  % change is 2010 - 2011 comparison.
  • Source: US Energy Information Administration, Dept. of Energy, July 2011.[14]

Steam Coal Exports by U.S. Customs District

Port Location 2008 2009 2010 * 2011 proj**  % change
Eastern Total 8,285,424 7,165,219 6,311,588 15,186,460 141%
Baltimore, MD 3,803,561 2,463,157 2,052,906 5,534,144 170%
Buffalo, NY 62,059 21,563 67,518 6,240 -91%
New York, NY 19,383 5,810 9,912 3,220 -68%
Norfolk, VA 4,133,217 4,550,821 4,111,562 9,354,336 128%
Ogdensburg, NY 217,282 26,367 23,088 215,320 833%
Philadelphia, PA 49,654 971 46,326 72,932 57%
St. Albans, VT 131 135 138 268 94%
Southern Total 5,069,753 2,872,527 7,046,378 15,313,884 117%
Charleston, SC 33 1,310 418 44 -89%
El Paso, TX 115,164 104,903 166,996 177,600 6%
Houston-Galveston, TX 196,355 178,076 136,200 97,272 -29%
Laredo, TX 174,514 302,025 60,928 42,224 -31%
Miami, FL 7,205 904 986 5,716 480%
Mobile, AL 38,545 25,703 206,377 218,284 6%
New Orleans, LA 4,531,378 2,259,571 6,266,598 14,769,592 136%
Savannah, GA 689 11 91 88 -3%
Tampa, FL 5,527 - 1,316 3,064 133%
Western Total 496,660 745,023 5,559,062 6,870,132 24%
Anchorage, AK 330,193 533,539 844,998 818,172 -3%
Great Falls, MT 602 623 474 54,468 11391%
Los Angeles, CA 151,496 61,802 832,866 1,235,872 48%
Nogales, AZ - 50 104 -100%
San Diego, CA 1,594 451 336 376 12%
San Francisco, CA 10,447 158 88 -100%
Seattle, WA 2,328 148,400 3,880,092 4,761,244 23%
Northern Total 12,834,551 5,154,565 3,388,980 331,588 -90%
Chicago, IL - 21 47 -100%
Cleveland, OH 629,782 340,072 94,412 -100%
Detroit, MI 12,200,728 4,812,306 3,190,608 330,592 -90%
Duluth, MN 3,246 1,425 4,484 -100%
Pembina, ND 795 741 4,970 996 -80%
Other Ports 311,770 121,982 136,110 104,736 -23%
Total 26,998,158 16,059,316 22,442,118 37,806,800 68%
  • Notes: Thousand short tons per year exported. 2010 first and last quarter data adjusted. 2011 first quarter data projected. Also, % change is 2010 - 2011 comparison.
  • Source: Energy Information Administration, July 2011.[15]

Main export seaports

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, seaports in the Gulf Coast and East Coast account for most U.S. coal exports, with six seaports accounting for 94% of U.S. coal exports in 2010, up from 63% in 2000. The seaport at Norfolk, Virginia has consistently remained the largest export facility, making up one-third to one-half of U.S. coal exports since 2000. The next largest export terminal (at its peak) was Detroit, Michigan, which in 2006 accounted for 28% of U.S. exports, although coal exports have fallen more than 90% from a peak of over 16 million tons in 2008. Combined annual exports from Norfolk, Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland increased 18 million tons from 2000 to 2010. The EIA also said that "coal exports from Seattle, Washington have also risen sharply in recent years as significant coal production in the Powder River Basin seeks access to growing Asian coal markets."[16]

U.S. Coal Industry Seeks to Boost Exports Through Gulf of Mexico

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.[17]

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

For more information on the proposed port developments in the western United States please visit the Coal exports from northwest United States ports article.

Proposed Millennium Bulk Logistics Longview Terminal

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.

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.[18]

Coalition Protests Ambre Energy's Push for Coal Exports.

Environmentalists stated that they would oppose any such actions, arguing that coal contributes to pollution and global warming.[19] Early discussion of how many jobs the port would produce was roughly twenty total.[20]

Coal Export Threatens the Northwest.

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 and Washington being mentioned as the top locations of choice.[21]

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.[22]

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.[23]

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.[24]

Proposed Terminal: 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.[25]

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. Goldman Sachs owns a portion of SSA Marine's parent company. 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.[26]

Environmental groups have appealed to Washington's Shoreline Hearings Board over a permit awarded for the port by Cowlitz County commissioners.[26]

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."[27]

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.[28]

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.[29]

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."[30]

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."[30]

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."[31]

Railroad company looks at 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.

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.[32]

Foreign and Domestic Coal Distribution by State of Origin

State Domestic Foreign Total
Alabama 12,162 8,034 20,199
Alaska 968 573 1,541
Arizona 7,958 - 7,958
Arkansas 13 - 13
Colorado 33,066 874 33,940
Illinois 29,644 3.019 32,663
Indiana 35,747 111 35,858
Kansas 90 - 90
Kentucky 118,558 6,081 124,639
East Kentucky 88,011 2,211 90,222
Louisana 3,855 - 3,855
Maryland 2,526 194 2,717
Mississippi 2,678 - 2,678
Missouri 190 - 190
Montana 39,288 1,480 40,708
New Mexico 23,436 - 23,436
North Dakota 30,909 - 30,909
Ohio 24,899 314 25,213
Oklahoma 1,234 3 1,237
Pennsylvania 59,121 6,491 65,612
Tennessee 1,500 - 1,500
Texas 39,152 - 39,152
Utah 24,884 541 25,425
Virginia 20,206 6,054 26,260
West Virginia 120,561 25,956 146,517
Appalachian Total 328,986 492,254 378,240
Interior Total 143,150 7,003 150,153
Western Total 618,210 9,562 627,772
East of the Miss. River 427,602 56,254 483,856
West of Miss River 662,744 9,565 672,309
U.S. Total 1,090,346 65,820 1,156,166

Notes:

  • Thousands of short tons per year exported.
  • Most recent data from discontinued series.
  • Source: US Energy Information Administration, Dept. of Energy, 2008. [33]

Export expansion plans

CONSOL Energy

The Buchanan Mine, an underground mine in Virginia operated by CONSOL Energy, secured a contract in 2009 to ship 88,000 tons of metallurgical coal to China.[34]

Massey Energy

For 2008 Massey Energy reported export revenues of $756.3 million, or 30% of the company's overall production revenues of $2.6 billion.[35]

Kinder to export Colorado coal from Port of Houston

In late April 2011 Kinder Morgan Energy Partners stated that the company will begin exporting Colorado mined coal through its bulk terminal at the Port of Houston in Houston, Texas. According to its first quarter earnings report, Kinder wrote that they had signed an agreement with a “large western coal producer” and will invest about $18 million to expand the ship channel facility.

Kinder stated it will be the first time Western coal will be exported from the Port of Houston. In February 2011, Kinder Morgan inked a deal with Massey Energy to export up to 6 million tons of coal annually through Kinder’s Myrtle Grove, La., facility.[36]

Exports of individual states

Seward Coal Terminal in Alaska

The Seward Coal Loading Facility, referred to as the Seward Coal Terminal, was built in 1984 to provide for the export of coal from Usibelli Coal Mine. The facility consists of a railroad spur, a variety of coal storage and handling and loading equipment, as well as a large dock. The Alaska Railroad purchased the facility in 2003 and has performed a variety of upgrades including an ongoing expansion of the coal storage areas in anticipation of increased coal exports from Alaska.[37]

West Virginia Coal exports

A West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economics Research noted that West Virginia's largest export destinations in 2010 were Canada, India, Brazil, the Netherlands and Italy. The same year minerals and ores exports, primarily coal, accounted for approximately 43 percent of these exports.[38]

Appalachian Coal Exports: 9 Million Tons To Be Sent To India

It was reported on August 16, 2012 that there was a private-sector agreement to import 9 million tons of coal a year from Kentucky and West Virginia. The 25-year agreement is worth $7 billion between India's Abhijeet Group and Kentucky-based Booth Energy Group and River Trading Co.[39]

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.[40]

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.“[41]

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.[42]

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!”[43]

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.[44]

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.[45] The Sierra Club was involved in raising public awareness and organizing the forum.[46]

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.[47]

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."[48]

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."[49]

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."[50]

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[51]

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.[52]

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.[53]

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.[54][55][56]

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.[57][58]

Resources

References

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  3. "U.S. Exports Most Coal in 20 Years on Australia Floods, SSY Says" Bloomberg Report, San Francisco Chronicle, May 23, 2011.
  4. “Natural Gas and Renewables: A Secure Low Carbon Energy Plan for the United States” Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisors, 2010.
  5. Mario Parker & Noah Buhayar [at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-06-24/peabody-energy-sees-global-coal-demand-at-the-beginning-of-a-super-cycle-.html “Peabody Energy Sees Global Coal Demand at the Beginning of a ‘Super Cycle’,”] Bloomberg News, June 21, 2010.
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