Environment Magazine

Outrageous Exploits of Big Coal in the Pacific Northwest, Ctd.

Posted on the 20 September 2013 by Earth First! Newswire @efjournal
From Columbia River Keeper

From Columbia River Keeper

By Earth First! News

A 10-foot tall inflatable globe declared “Coal is evil” outside of the Cowlitz County Planning Commission, which held a hearing on coal terminals yesterday. 2,000 people turned out to voice their position, and opponents outnumbered proponents by far, throwing into question Millennium Bulk Terminals’ bid to build a $600 million facility shipping coal out to via the Pacific.

Unsurprisingly, Wendy Hutchinson, VP of Public Affairs for Millennium Bulk Terminals, set an apparently neutral tone: “We just want a fair review process,” she said. “We want it to be thorough and to answer all the public’s questions and the regulator’s questions.”

However, not everyone felt like the commission was as fair and balanced as Hutchinson seemed to desire. Columbia River Keeper organizer Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky was incensed: ”Yelling. That’s how I ended that hearing,” wrote Zimmer-Stucky in a statement on Facebook.

“[The commissioners] let the applicant speak for 30 minutes, their staff speak for 30 minutes, and the the proponents speak for the rest of the hearing.. No surprise, at 9:30 exactly they had run out of proponents and they ended the hearing.”

There is massive opposition to the coal terminal in Longview, Washington, which would export 44 million tons annually at the least coming in from the Powder River Basin. With the Powder River Basin already responsible for 13% of the US’s carbon emissions, the plan to export coal would increase concerns about the Obama Administration’s refusal to scale down coal production even after admitting that something must be done about the climate crisis.

But opponents of the terminal do not just include environmentalists.

Local people worried about the health effects of coal shipments, along with land expropriations, came to the commission to have their complaints heard. Cowlitz County already has a high rate of lung disease, and opponents are angry about further threats to their wellbeing.

“My neighbors and I breathe toxic air from the pulp and paper mills at our doorstep,” insisted resident Dawn Hanson. “We don’t want to also breathe coal dust laced with mercury, arsenic and lead.”

Although most of the 150 speakers were opponents, Zimmer-Stucky explains that many people were silenced in the commission’s apparent bid to give both voices equal weight, even though the opposition had more numbers. “No one was allowed [to speak],” declared Zimmer-Stucky, ”Not even the farmer whose land is about to be taken for dirty industry and had been waiting since 5pm was allowed.”

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