The Sierra Club brings its anti-coal campaign to Spokane on Thursday, urging local residents to oppose terminals at Washington seaports that would ship coal to Asia.
Coal producers are seeking permits to build terminals near Bellingham and Longview to ship up to 130 million tons of coal mined in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin to China, India, Korea and Japan.
The coal would reach Washington’s coast by rail. Communities along the route, including Spokane, could see dozens more trains loaded with coal rolling through their towns if the terminals are built, said Robin Everett, part of the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign.
She’s one of the speakers at Thursday’s forum on the proposed ports. It runs from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St. Two Spokane City Council members, Bob Apple and Amber Waldref, are also on the panel.
Peabody Energy, a large coal company, has announced plans to export 24 million tons of coal annually from a shipping terminal north of Bellingham.
In Longview, Millennium Bulk Terminals, a subsidiary of an Australian coal company, has purchased property for a terminal along the Columbia River. A U.S. company, Arch Coal, also has a stake in the venture. The companies could export from 20 million to 80 million tons of coal annually.
According to the Sierra Club’s estimates, the terminals could mean from 30 to 60 additional trains through Spokane County each day.
In addition to the greenhouse gases produced by burning coal overseas, Everett said the rail shipments from Wyoming will release coal dust and diesel particulates, both respiratory irritants.
BNSF Railway Co. already ships coal through Spokane on its railcars, said Suann Lundsberg, a company spokeswoman in Fort Worth, Texas. The railroad would serve the Bellingham coal terminal if it’s built.
But Lundsberg said it’s too soon to know what the market demand for coal will be like in 2015 when the terminal is scheduled to open, or what the impact would be on rail traffic in Spokane.