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Sierra Club, DTE founders will share info about coal Tuesday

Fri., Aug. 19, 2011, 12:14 p.m.

Concern growing about possible impact of coal dust

People wanting to know more about coal and its possible impact on residents if a new plan to send trainloads through Washington are invited to a free presentation Tuesday.

Community members Bart Mihailovich and Paul Dillon will be two of the speakers at “The Coal Hard Truth Happy Hour” from 6-8 p.m. on the rooftop of the Saranac Building in Spokane. Admission is free, and light refreshments and beverages will be provided. Joining them will be Robin Everett of the Sierra Club, who will give an overview of coal in general.

Mihailovich and Dillon were co-founders of the original Down to Earth blog, which later evolved into Down to Earth NW. They also co-host a weekly radio show on KYRS-FM, and Mihailovich is the Spokane Riverkeeper.

They will be discussing current and future coal-related projects, especially current proposals to export coal from two Washington ports to customers in China and India. The coal would be mined in the U.S., and rather than sold domestically, a practice that is drawing more and more criticism and environmental regulations, it would go to foreign markets which offer higher demand and higher prices.

One of the current plans seeks to export 60 million tons a year from a Columbia River port, and the other hopes to export 24 million tons yearly from a proposed port near Bellingham, Wash.

Another concern of the train project is the possible environmental contamination along the railroad tracks from spilled coal and dust along the way, including Spokane. Though coal companies say any dust would be in small quantities, critics say that even miniscule amounts in every train car would quickly build up to cause large-scale degradation.

The Sierra Club continues to push for more public awareness of coal and coal-fired power plants. A recent campaign targeted TransAlta, a coal-fired plant in Centralia, Wash., which recently announced it would begin phasing out its two coal boilers by 2025.

Tuesday’s presentation is open to the public.

“The Coal Hard Truth Happy Hour” is 6-8 p.m. on the rooftop of the Saranac Building in Spokane. For more information about the Saranac Building or directions visit:here.

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