Posted by Regna Merritt, Oregon PSR on October 3, 2017
We’re celebrating a huge victory! As a co-director of the Power Past Coal coalition, I’m thrilled to thank each of you who worked to defeat the Millennium Bulk Terminal (MBT) coal export facility proposed for construction in Longview, WA.
Had it been built, it would have been the largest coal export facility in the country, shipping up to 44 million tons of coal per year to Asian markets. (Just to give you an idea, that’s more than 120,000 tons per day, 365 days a year.)
Inspired by Dr. Frank James and a group of physicians in Whatcom County, Oregon PSR and Washington PSR brought the voice of public health to this campaign. We helped engage the Oregon Nurses Association, the Washington State Medical Association and the Washington Academy of Family Physicians in efforts to protect public health from coal exports. We led health forums, testified at every public hearing, provided rally speakers and wrote op-eds. PSR volunteers are awesome! They are key contributors to an amazing “Power Past Coal” coalition.
Your testimony and comments, combined with the work of incredible allies and Tribes from the coal mines to the ports, helped convince the State of Washington to deny a necessary water quality permit. The department cited the project’s negative impacts on climate, clean air and water.
MBT states that it will file an appeal of the decision, so Oregon PSR and Washington PSR will keep up the pressure for the county and the state to deny another permit.
Millennium would have added up to sixteen mile-and-a-half long coal trains a day traveling between the Powder River Basin and Uinta Basin and Longview, WA. The state’s own analysis found that the climate pollution from this project would be equivalent to adding 8 million cars to the road at a time when our changing climate is contributing to catastrophic forest fires and stronger hurricanes. From cradle to grave, the project could have emitted 55 million tons of green house gases each year.
The coal trains would discharge dangerous diesel pollution and coal dust in communities across the Pacific Northwest, contributing to higher rates of cancer, tying up traffic and worsening public safety response times. Closer to the terminal, the coal dust discharge from these trains would have been intensified by coal dust blowing from 75 acres of uncovered coal piles, further endangering human health.
In addition to effects on human health, the Washington State Department of Ecology’s environmental review documented significant impacts the project would have on water quality and habitat in the Columbia River, including:
- 1,680 additional trips per year by large vessels in the environmentally sensitive Columbia River estuary, causing large wakes that disrupt juvenile endangered salmon species.
- The removal of more than 24 acres of ecologically vital wetlands, to be permanently filled to construct rail lines.
- The potential of coal train spills near or into the Columbia. Just this past August, a coal train en route to Oregon derailed in Montana, spilling 30 cars worth of coal near and into the Clark Fork River, which has overcome decades of mining pollution. To date, none of the responsible parties have fully cleaned up the coal. Recently, a portion of this coal pile ignited and burned.
Rest assured that, as members of Power Past Coal, we will continue focused efforts to stave off not only this project but also the Fraser Surrey Docks coal export facility proposed for British Columbia.
We know that your efforts make the difference. Keep it up!
With deep gratitude,
Healthy Climate Program Director, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility
Co-Director, Power Past Coal Campaign