Coal Export

Sending nine additional loaded coal trains through the Columbia Gorge each day threatens air and water quality, plant and wildlife habitat, and human health

Coal Export
Coal export does not provide any benefit to the Columbia River Gorge and it comes at a terrible cost to our health, environment and public safety. (photographer: Daniel Dancer)
From an original seven proposals to build coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest, just two remain. Both involve transporting coal through the Columbia River Gorge by rail from the open pit mines of the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana to terminals in Washington and Britsh Columbia for export to Asia. 
  
If coal export plans go forward, it would result in nine loaded (plus nine unloaded) coal trains, each more than one mile in length, moving through the Gorge every day. Coal is transported in open-top cars and each car loses about one pound of coal dust per mile. Coal debris litters the Columbia River shoreline, parks, vineyards and sensitive plant and wildlife habitat. The resulting toxic coal dust, in addition to diesel emissions from locomotive engines, pose a huge threat to air quality, water quality, plant and wildlife habitat and human health in the Gorge.
 
 

Rail capacity through the Columbia Gorge is near its limit. To accommodate this significant increase in rail traffic, new tracks would likely need to expand into environmentally sensitive areas. River access would be effectively cut off at many sites due to increased rail traffic and the accompanying delays would hurt local businesses and risk potentially delaying arrival of emergency vehicles such as fire fighters and paramedics. When burned, the coal would not provide electricity or heat to the Northwest, but the region would receive toxic mercury pollution sent on trade winds from Asia. About 20 percent of the airborne mercury pollution in the Northwest comes from Asian power plants.
 
Watch Johnny Cash tribute band Counterfeit Cash bring the coal export issue to musical life in the “Coal Train Blues” video (click on image to play):
 
Combined with the pending proposals to build Northwest oil train terminals, the wild, beautiful Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area would be downgraded to a fossil-fuel highway. Coal export offers very little economic benefit to the Gorge and the Northwest, and at great cost to our health, environment and public safety. Five coal export proposals, including one that would have resulted in the U.S.'s largest coal terminal at Cherry Point, WA, have been defeated or withdrawn. Public opinion continues to build against the three remaining coal export proposals.  
 

Friends of the Columbia Gorge is a member of the Power Past Coal coalition


 

Coal Export Issues

Coal Export Projects

Coal Export Projects

If built, two coal terminal proposals in the Pacific Northwest would result in nine additional fully loaded coal trains traveling through the Columbia Gorge each day.

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Why Friends Opposes Coal Export

Why Friends Opposes Coal Export

The negative impacts of coal export include air pollution, contaminated waterways, delayed emergency response vehicles, and climate change.

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