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Push to Derail Coal-Export Plan Draws Strength From All Corners of Cascadia

  For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Organic Transitions page.

Last Thursday, I braved the hordes crowding Seattle's convention center to offer their opinions on a proposed coal-export terminal, proposed for construction just north of Bellingham, Wash., that would ship coal arriving on trains from the Powder River Basin overseas to Asia. Buzz about this event - a public hearing intended to gather input on what should be studied for the project's environmental impact statement - had been building for weeks. Turnout at previous hearings in other towns exceeded expectations (over 450 people showed up in Friday Harbor, the seat of a rural island county with a population of less than 16,000), prompting organizers to reschedule the Seattle hearing so it could be held at a convention center ballroom with a 2,000-person capacity, instead of a community college.

At a rally and news conference before the official hearing, I saw all the old environmental-protest standbys: a giant fish, a giant inflatable inhaler, an inflatable Earth, a hand-lettered sign reading "No coal train, yes Coltrane," and last but not least, a lady dressed as Santa Claus comforting someone dressed as a polar bear. And much of the following testimony came straight from Bleeding-Heart Environmentalism 101: appeals from white people to think seven generations into the future, anti-coal slogans sung painfully to the tune of Christmas carols, etc. (When a group called the "Raging Grannies" took to the mike to offer such a performance, I heard one of the few terminal supporters in attendance groan "oh, God  " as her stereotype of crazy treehuggers was confirmed with frightening accuracy.)

But to me, those cliches were really more of a distraction from the impressively diverse range of interests opposed to the terminal. A pastor, a Muslim woman, and a Jewish man each spoke of the obligation to protect and care for God's creation. A young mother-to-be who shared fears for her unborn son. Pete Knutson, a commercial fisherman for 40 years who runs Loki Fish Company in Seattle, spoke on behalf of "all those marine livelihoods" that would be affected not only by the huge increase in barge traffic carrying coal from the terminal out to sea, but also by the "deadliest catch of all" - the ocean acidification caused by increased carbon emissions.


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