Quantcast

The True Costs of U.S. Coal Exports

Energy

National Wildlife Federation

A report released today concludes that a massive buildup of U.S. coal exports through the Pacific Northwest would threaten public health and cause serious environmental degradation to the region’s natural resources.

As coal continues to decline as a source of power in the U.S., the report warns that the industry’s plan to expand markets abroad will harm fisheries, endanger communities and increase global warming pollution. Because of a decline in demand in the U.S. for coal, this fight over port expansion in Washington and Oregon will determine the immediate future of the coal industry in the U.S.

“Sending more coal to Asia carries almost no benefits for the U.S., but we pay the price," said Felice Stadler, director of Energy Campaigns at the National Wildlife Federation. “Degraded fisheries, damaged communities, medical costs, harms to wildlife and a continued burning of high carbon fuel will cost us dearly for decades.”

Currently, at least six coal port proposals are being considered in Washington and Oregon, which together would be capable of sending 150 million tons or more annually to Asian markets. The report is released jointly by the National Wildlife Federation and Association of Northwest Steelheaders.

"There are still too many unanswered questions regarding the potential impact of coal dust on the Columbia River watershed and the health of the river's salmon and steelhead runs, many of which are federally-listed under the Endangered Species Act," said Russell Bassett, executive director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders. "At the very least the Army Corps of Engineers should conduct a programmatic Environmental Impact Statement to study the potential impacts fugitive coal dust would have on the Columbia River and the fisheries that supports billions of dollars in Oregon's and Washington's economies."

A unit train waits to transfer the coal onto conveyors belts to be loaded on ships headed to Asia or into storage piles at this export terminal in British Columbia. Photo by Paul K. Anderson, www.paulkanderson.com.

The report, The True Cost of Coal, says ramping up coal exports means sending more coal-laden rail cars through Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. This will leave more fugitive coal dust and diesel emissions in communities, deposit more mercury in waterways and create more air and noise pollution from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin to Puget Sound.  

In addition: 

  • Each coal car can lose hundreds of pounds of toxic coal dust en route from the Powder River Basin to the Pacific Northwest. 
  • There have been at least 30 coal train derailments in the U.S. since 2010 alone, raising the specter of massive coal contamination into rivers. A spate of them has occurred in recent weeks.
  • And whether burned in China or the U.S., coal would continue to speed climate change and crowd out cleaner sources of energy like wind and solar power.   

National Wildlife Federation issues a series of recommendations for policymakers in the report that would urge further study of the direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of the projects including the induced rail traffic, mining activities and climate implications. Federal and state permitting agencies must fully engage tribes in this process as well.

Visit EcoWatch’s COAL page for more related news on this topic.

Read this related article: Hundreds Protest Coal Exporting at Rally with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A new report spotlights a U.N. estimate that at least 275 million people rely on healthy coral reefs. A sea turtle near the Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef is seen above. THE OCEAN AGENCY / XL CATLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY

By Jessica Corbett

In a new report about how the world's coral reefs face "the combined threats of climate change, pollution, and overfishing" — endangering the future of marine biodiversity — a London-based nonprofit calls for greater global efforts to end the climate crisis and ensure the survival of these vital underwater ecosystems.

Read More
Half of the extracted resources used were sand, clay, gravel and cement, seen above, for building, along with the other minerals that produce fertilizer. Cavan Images / Cavan / Getty Images

The world is using up more and more resources and global recycling is falling. That's the grim takeaway from a new report by the Circle Economy think tank, which found that the world used up more than 110 billion tons, or 100.6 billion metric tons, of natural resources, as Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

Read More
Sponsored

By Gero Rueter

Heating with coal, oil and natural gas accounts for around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. But that's something we can change, says Wolfgang Feist, founder of the Passive House Institute in the western German city of Darmstadt.

Read More
Researchers estimate that 142,000 people died due to drug use in 2016. Markus Spiske / Unsplash

By George Citroner

  • Recent research finds that official government figures may be underestimating drug deaths by half.
  • Researchers estimate that 142,000 people died due to drug use in 2016.
  • Drug use decreases life expectancy after age 15 by 1.4 years for men and by just under 1 year for women, on average.

Government records may be severely underreporting how many Americans die from drug use, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University.

Read More
Water coolers in front of shut-off water fountains at Center School in Stow, MA on Sept. 4, 2019 after elevated levels of PFAS were found in the water. David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe via Getty Images

In a new nationwide assessment of drinking water systems, the Environmental Working Group found that toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS are far more prevalent than previously thought.

Read More