As fast as the world’s biggest coal companies move to make the Pacific Northwest an export zone for their deadly product, people across the region are organizing to prevent coal exports from Northwestern ports. From impacted community members, to students who are watching their future go up in flames as China burns vast quantities of US coal, concerned residents of the Northwest are uniting for a clean energy future.
The Northwest has already made great strides. On Thursday the Washington legislature passed the Coal-Free Future Act, which will phase out coal combustion in the state (albeit much more slowly than many of us wish). This builds on an agreement reached in Oregon last year to close that state’s only coal plant (again, we’re working to bump up the timeline). But even as the Northwest closes the book on its own coal plants, the likes of Arch Coal, Ambre Energy, and Peabody are looking to ship coal abroad.
On Earth Day the Rainforest Action Network and youth organizers at Evergreen State College delivered over 7,000 petitions to Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, asking her to oppose coal exports. Students also dropped off a list of six Washington colleges and universities where student governments are endorsing goals for a coal-free future, including a commitment to build no new coal export terminals in the state. Closer to proposed terminal sites, students and community members are building a movement to prevent export projects going through. On Saturday I joined representatives of the Sierra Club and a group of thirteen students from Portland’s Reed College, who travelled to Longview, Washington to learn about the impacts of coal exports first-hand.
On a warm spring morning we met with members of Landowners and Citizens for a Safe Community, a grassroots organization fighting a proposed coal export terminal. Millenium Bulk Logistics, the US branch of Australia’s Ambre Energy, wants to export up to 60 million tons of coal yearly out of Longview to markets of China and elsewhere. Arch Coal, the second biggest US coal company, has a 38% stake in the project. If Millenium gets its way, Longview will see five coal trains charge into town every day, each consisting of 125 cars. This drammatic increase in rail use would tie up traffic and restrict access to the community’s only hospital. As Longview residents have begun to quip (and it isn’t a joke), how many babies will be born in the backs of cars that get stuck waiting for the latest coal train to pass through town? …
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We will be hanging out with our CCN friends and reflecting on who we are as an organization and how we can move forward to be the best regional climate activism network possible. We will also be talking about new leadership for the upcoming year.
Friday, May 13th (5:00pm) – Sunday, May 15th (2:00pm)
Camp Namanu in Sandy, OR (outside of Portland – map) [probably]
We’ll have cabins rented and a lodge with a kitchen.
Please bring $20 for food and lodging (If this is prohibitive we’d still love to have you)
There will be s’mores and hugs!
Please pass this along to folks in your community, and I hope to see you all in May!
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By defending the Clean Air Act, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley can protect Oregonians from mercury and other toxic pollutants from coal plants
For immediate release
Eugene, OR – On Wednesday the youth-run Cascade Climate Network and the University of Oregon-based Climate Justice League called on Oregon’s US senators to defend the Clean Air Act and public health. With Republicans and conservative Democrats in Congress now attempting to restrict the Clean Air Act’s authority, students urged Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to stand strong for the law this Earth Day.
“The first Earth Day in 1970 helped usher in the wave of awareness that spurred passage of the modern Clean Air Act,” said Casey Gifford, a junior at University of Oregon. “Forty-one years later, we need to ensure regulators retain their ability to enforce the Clean Air Act and protect Americans from pollution.”
Gifford just returned this week from PowerShift 2011, a youth energy summit that brought 10,000 young voters to Washington, DC to push for clean energy and a transition away from dirty fuel sources like coal plants. “I realized how fortunate I am not to have a coal plant in my immediate neighborhood,” Gifford said. “One speaker at PowerShift began to cry as she told how she has suffered from cancer three times because her home is surrounded by coal plants.”
Oregon only has one coal plant, the Boardman facility located in the northeastern part of the state. But that single plant is Oregon’s largest source of carbon, mercury, and other pollutants that threaten human health and the environment. “Burning coal leads to smog, acid rain, global climate change, and air toxics,” said Terra Smith, who graduated from University of Oregon last term. “The Boardman Plant alone produces 200 pounds of mercury every year, when just 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury in a 25-acre lake will make the fish unsafe to eat.” …
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Today members of Portland Rising Tide and participants in a training for Power Shift 2011 set out to let major banks in Portland know it’s time to pull investments from dirty fossil fuel infrastructure. About fifty people visited local branches of Wells Fargo and Bank of America, letting customers know the banks have been “Closed for climate crimes.” While some participants staged a die-in on the sidewalks, others used mud to stick “dirty money” to the walls and windows. The group drew interested looks from people on the sidewalks and bank customers using the ATMs, and activists were happy to fill in passers-by on how these banks came to deserve their dirty reputations.
A good time was had by all, and it was great to see so much energy channeled into shining a light on the companies financing some of the world’s most destructive fossil fuel infrastructure. Yet while actions like this are designed to be both educational and fun, there’s nothing amusing about funding activities that destroy the very livability of the planet. When Bank of America and Wells Fargo customers arrive tomorrow at the branches targeted by today’s action, they’ll learn about the dirty dealings with fossil fuel companies these Wall Street players ordinarily try to cover up. …
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