The Keystone XL pipeline has become the iconic symbol of anti-fossil fuel and climate change activism in the 21st century. Yet, there is a more dangerous project lurking behind the scenes that has not been garnering nearly the same amount of attention: a series of proposed export terminals in the Pacific Northwest that would enable US coal companies to ship 190 million more tons of coal a year from the Powder River Basin to Asia. The Army Corps of Engineers recently decided not to do an environmental impact statement for a number of terminals that export coal along the Washington and Oregon coasts. These terminals are a last ditch attempt by the coal industry to ship their products to Asia, where the market is still expanding. A report by Greenpeace has ranked the project as the #3 most harmful plan proposed in the world, while the Keystone XL ranks as #5 out of a total of 14.

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The coal intended for export would be mined from the Powder River Basin in in Wyoming and Montana and make its way to Asia through five terminals located in Oregon and Washington. Climate activists and residents have banded together over concern for CO2 emissions, traffic snarls, and coal dust that would be created by the mile-long trains. Although the Army Corps of Engineers has rejected a review, other federal agencies have expressed the necessity to carry out such studies. Despite the fact that the Corps received over 125,000 signatures protesting the project, they nevertheless still announced their plans (or lack thereof) at a Washington, D.C. hearing.

State and non-profit organizations have also taken up the fight. After focusing on establishing a moratorium on mining in the Powder River Basin and being mostly ignored by the Obama administration, they have chosen to look instead to shutting down the terminals. In an effort to slow the industry’s movement, communities have been successful in shutting down three of the proposed six terminals.

“While it is disappointing that the Army Corps of Engineers chose to not recognize the local, regional, national and global negative impacts of expanding coal exports to China, we will continue to work with colleagues in the Leadership Alliance Against Coal to call on the decision-makers to turn down a proposal that hurts local transportation needs, negatively impacts public health, damages important cultural sites and would pump more carbon into the atmosphere than the proposed Keystone pipeline.” Seattle mayor, Micheal McGinn told the website, Take Part.

As the public becomes more and more aware of the negative impacts of fossil fuels on the environment and overall economy, the government would do well to listen to the concerns of their constituents instead of caving to the influence of an outdated and dying industry.

Via Take Part

Images via Wikicommons users Evelyn Simak and Brylie Oxley.