Environmental activist and attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says that coal export terminals planned for about half a dozen locations throughout Oregon and Washington would lead to environmental damage and political malfeasance, while creating a minimal number of jobs.
“It’s going to end up leaving Portland with a legacy of pollution, poison and corruption,” Kennedy said of coal exports during a May 7 anti-coal rally at Portland’s Pioneer Square. The event was organized by environmental groups the Sierra Club and Columbia Riverkeeper, which have been involved in concerted efforts to prevent Pacific Northwest ports from developing terminals that would export coal to Asian countries.
The environmentalists argue that the resulting dust from the trains hauling the coal to coastal ports from the Midwest and elsewhere would pollute the countryside along the proposed routes.
During the anti-coal rally, Kennedy claimed coal export companies would inevitably pay off legislators to see pro-coal legislation passed, using the prospect of job creation as a selling point.
“It poisons democracy, it poisons communities, it poisons values,” Kennedy warned. “Coal is crime. Do not let it come through this community.”
Despite the vocal opposition however, about half a dozen Oregon and Washington ports are currently considering coal export terminal proposals, partially because of the jobs they would bring and the positive economic impact they could have on the surrounding communities.
Among them is the Port of Longview, where Millennium Bulk Terminals has applied for permits to build a $600 million terminal in a bid to become one of the largest coal exporters in North America.
Coal companies have also submitted permits to build export terminals at or near Port Westward near Clatskanie; Port Morrow and Port of Bellingham. Two other proposals have surfaced in Coos Bay and Hoquiam, but no formal permit requests have been filed as of yet.
In response to the controversy, numerous state and regional officials and entities, including Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, Washington state Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant and the US Environmental Protection Agency have weighed in, with each saying that a comprehensive study is needed to study the full potential cumulative environmental effects of the coal export proposals.