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Tuesday, October 21, 2014 / PROGRESSIVE JOURNALISM FOR POSITIVE ACTION
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Battle Over Coal Exports Continues as Tanker Accident Adds to Laundry List of Reasons Coal is a Bad Bet

Peter LaFontaine
Eco Watch / News Report
Published: Sunday 9 December 2012
If the industry knew what they were doing, we wouldn’t have accidents like the one in Vancouver, or traffic jams caused by malfunctioning coal trains or deadly derailments.
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People in Washington and Oregon have been turning out in force to protest the coal industry’s plans to send millions of tons of dirty fuel through their backyards, and an incident yesterday just added to the laundry list of reasons coal is a bad bet. From the Vancouver Sun:

A large ship docking at Westshore Terminals at Delta’s Roberts Bank crashed into a berth early Friday morning. In a statement, the company said a large cape size vessel was docking at Berth 2 at 1 a.m. when it collided with a trestle leading to Berth 1, removing a large portion of the trestle.

Westshore Terminals, just across the border in Vancouver, is the biggest coal port on the West coast. You can see a photo here where the tanker sheared right through a long conveyor belt that stretches from the dock to the shore. The coal spilling into the water is visible even from several hundred feet above … drifting down-current toward who knows where. The toxins in the coal will pollute the water and harm wildlife, not to mention causing a massive headache for the port authorities.

Tanker accidents are another heavy risk of exporting coal, alongside train wreckspollutionwildlife impacts and dozens of other problems. And if the coal industry gets its way, we’re talking about a lot of tanker traffic in a pretty small space—it takes more than a couple of boats to transport 150 million tons of coal each year, and that means more accidents, more collisions, and more coal spills.

Oregon’s Governor John Kitzhaber has been one of the key figures trying to get the whole story before state and federal agencies make any decisions about these coal terminals, and he recently spoke of the need to consider the issue from a broader perspective:

What does that mean in terms of our own energy security? What does it mean in terms of our efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and shift to a low-carbon future?

I would argue [the federal government is] really underpricing coal, which means we are subsidizing the development of coal-fired plants in Asia. The way the wind blows, all that mercury is going to blow back this way.

He’s right, of course, and it’s great to see that someone in authority is taking these problems seriously. But the industry and too many people in the federal government continue to plug up their ears and say, “It’s no big deal! We know what we’re doing so y’all can just go home and relax.”

That’s not going to cut it. If the industry knew what they were doing, we wouldn’t have accidents like the one in Vancouver, or traffic jams caused by malfunctioning coal trains or deadly derailments. Orcas and other marine life in Puget Sound are at particular risk.



ABOUT Peter LaFontaine

Peter LaFontaine is NWF’s Energy Policy Advocate, focused on stopping the development of dirty fuels like tar sands and coal. Growing up in New Hampshire and spending summers hiking in the Southwest gave him a deep appreciation for wildlife and wilderness, which he hopes to preserve for generations to come.

The bi weekly derailments and

The bi weekly derailments and spillage of existing coal trains should be in the headlines.
These trains are much shorter and less frequent than planned.
The planed mega terminal will endanger fisheries by storing huge piles of uncovered coal near the terminal.
Investors like Warren Buffet and Goldman Sachs are expecting tax payers to foot the bill for 90% of the terminal and all of the rail upgrades, traffic revisions and health and environmental effects.

Take it from the child of

Take it from the child of three generations of coal miners, and whose mother and aunts worked in Dupont's explosives labs, UNBURNED coal IS toxic. The miners know it, anyone who lives in coal mining country knows it (extremely high cancer rates), the coal mining executives and their mercenary scientists know it. Whether the coal is bituminous or anthracite is important, BUT, both will release toxins and affect the pH of the surrounding land or water where they are dumped. Our fresh water springs and streams (in Schukyill and Carbon counties, PA) were contaminated by water leaching into them from the slag heaps left by the strip mining companies (for which my father worked—died of cancer like his father and grandfather), or from water draining into the water table via old, abandoned Bethlehem Steel mines, where, yes, there were still seams of coal . Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, anyone? Coal is an antiquated energy solution (16th century) that should've been left to rot centuries ago. Coal is dirty, coal is toxic, coal=death (literally, since it is the compressed corpses of plants and animals). Coal, like all fossil fuels, is a solution for Luddites who cannot, and will not, think their way out of a very thin paper bag, to find more viable, less destructive, and eventually more profitable energy source.

I'm not arguing on behalf of

I'm not arguing on behalf of the coal industry or the use of coal as an energy source. There are many very real problems associated with its use. But, if you are on the side of reason and justice, loaded language and emotional exaggerations don't help your cause.
The amount of coal involved in this accident would be trivial compared to a slag heap and the cancers you are talking about are caused by breathing coal dust.

Toxins in the coal polluting

Toxins in the coal polluting the water? That's the kind of crazy exaggeration worthy of a conservative talk show host. Harmful impurities only become significant when concentrated in the ash left behind after burning. If you are truly on the side of science and reason, get your facts right.

SORRY FOR CAPS. BAD EYES. I'M

SORRY FOR CAPS. BAD EYES. I'M GLAD ARACHNE646 MENTIONED THE PLANET AND ALL LIFE, NOT SIMPLY PEOPLE. OVERPOPULATION IS VASTLY UNDER REPORTED, EVEN IN NATION OF CHANGE, AS THE MAIN CAUSE OF CLIMATE CHANGE. WE DON'T LIKE NUCLEAR, COAL, OIL, FRACKED GAS. BUT THE SAD FACT IS WE DON'T YET HAVE OPTIONS FOR ENOUGH GREEN ENERGY. ENVIRONMENTALISTS IN CALIFORNIA COMPLAIN ABOUT POWER LINES FROM HUGE SUN FARMS IN THE SOUTH WEST CUTTING THROUGH THEIR FORESTS. RICH PEOPLE ON NANTUCKET SOUND COMPLAIN ABOUT WIND FARMS RUINING THEIR VIEW. IF THE WIND FARM WERE IN A PLACE WHERE POOR FOLKS LIVED, THEY'D BE ALL FOR IT. I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY WE DON'T SET UP TIDAL POWER TURBINES IN THE HUDSON RIVER, AND ALL OVER THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN ALONG THE GULF STREAM. INTERNATIONAL WATER COULD MEAN AN INTERNATIONAL PROJECT. I SUGGESTED SO TO POLISH WOMAN SCIENTISTS ON THEIR WAY FROM NEWARK TO A SIX WEEK BOAT TRIP LOOKING FOR DEEPEST WATER OIL OFF NEWFOUNDLAND, THOUGH EVERY NEWF KNOWS SOMEONE WHO WENT DIED WHEN THE HIBERNIA OIL RIG WENT OVER IN A STORM. THE REPUBLICANS WILL BLOCK ANY SERIOUS ATTEMPT AT RAPID RAIL UP AND DOWN BOTH COASTS FROM MAINE TO MIAMI, AND WASHINGTON STATE TO SAN DIEGO. (GOOD FOR JERRY BROWN!) PLUS ACROSS THE COUNTRY. WHAT A GREAT RIDE THAT WOULD BE IN AN OBSERVER CAR! THERE'S PLENTY OF WIND IN NEWFOUNDLAND AS WELL. (WHERE MY BROTHER'S BASED; GO THERE EVERY SUMMER). GORGEOUS PLACE. THE NYT HAD AN ARTICLE IN THE SPRING STYLE SECTION. A PHOTO OF AN ELEGANT BUILDING ON TOP A CLIFF WAS OBVIOUSLY TAKEN IN SUMMER. IF YOU WERE THERE IN SPRING, YOU'D LITERALLY BE BLOWN OFF THE CLIFF BY A HUGE WIND FULL OF SLUSH AND SNOW. BUT THERE'S NO WAY TO GET THAT WIND POWER ACROSS THE PIECE OF OCEAN SEPARATING NEWFOUNDLAND FROM CONTINENTAL NORTH AMERICA. MY POINT IS THAT WE CAN COMPLAIN ABOUT ALL FORMS OF ENERGY, BUT I'M USING IT RIGHT NOW. DON'T OWN A CELLPHONE OR EREADER. I ASSUME ALL YOUR READERS READ THE NYTIMES ARTICLE ON HOW MUCH ENERGY ELECTRONICS USE. I'M TRYING TO START A PETITION FOR YOU LIVING IN THE NYC AREA. TELL WNYC ONLINE, OR BY CALLING
1 646 829.4000, TO STOP THEIR IDIOTIC AND IMMORAL AD FOR THEMSELVES: "WNYC, NEVER TURN IT OFF!" THIS AS THEY'RE BEGGING FOR MONEY FOR SANDY WHEN ONE OF THEIR TOWERS WENT DOWN DUE TO CLIMATE CHANGE. SHOULD I NEVER TURN OFF MY COMPUTER, LIGHTS, TV, AND OTHER ELECTRONICS YOU MAY HAVE. LEAVE THE DOOR OF THE FRIDGE OPEN. I HOPE YOU GET THE POINT. PASS IT ON, PLEASE. I'M URGING BRIAN LEHRER TO DO A SERIES ON GREENING NEW YORK. A FRIEND IN ENGLAND ON THE SAME LATITUDE AS LABRADOR, WHO ENJOYS THAT SUNNY ENGLISH WEATHER, ("GET A TAN FROM STANDING IN THE BRITISH RAIN,) HEAT HIS WATER AND SOME OF HIS HOUSE WITH A SMALL SOLAR PANEL. COVER GREEN ROOFS AND GREEN SIDEWALKS. NOT JUST THE BAD NEWS, PLEASE.

The toxins released from this

The toxins released from this spill, while serious, are insignificant when compared with the huge amount of pollution that is released when the coal is incinerated in China or elsewhere it would have been exported to. We really are underpricing our coal, when we consider the cost to our planet, people, and all life.

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