Anger over proposed coal trains unites coastal communities

Coal-fired plants threaten local economies, ecological systems, and citizens' health.

“I’m not any kind of professional organizer,” says anti-coal train activist Lynne Oulman, “but I just got so angry about what was about to happen here.”

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In Lynne’s case, “here” means Bellingham, Wash. But cities and towns all along the Pacific Northwest coast have united to oppose proposed deep-water ports, shipping terminals, and the potentially protracted trains that would be rumbling to and fro carrying loads of coal from mines in the Midwest bound for shipment to the unregulated belchfire plants of China.

Canadians, too, recognize the threat, as they gather to voice their disapproval of coal exports from their ports.

        Dirty coal. It's a worldwide problem. Cheap profits, expensive consequences.

Among the chief concerns of folks faced with the prospect of thousands of tons of the dirty fuel rolling through their communities and/or off-loading the black ecological plague nearby:

  • The detrimental health effects of coal dust wafting from the passing trains and billowing out during the process of dumping it at the ports.
  • The detrimental health effects of breathing in the resulting pollution from unfettered Chinese coal-fired plants when it inevitably makes its way back to the Pacific Northwest via the prevailing weather patterns.
  • The detrimental economic effects of traffic delays and environmental degradation that could quickly turn what are now highly regarded communities into icky, smudgy societal pariahs.

Add to all this the dawning awareness that China, in a few short years, may lose its taste for America’s high-priced coal   and a clear picture of corporate greed emerges. Short-term profit, long-term loss. Wall Street wins, Main Street loses.

How to derail the corporate-backed coal train juggernaut? Lynne Oulman favors a three-pronged approach:

  • Recruit local businesses to stand in opposition to this economic and environmental threat.
  • Contact your local elected officials. Urge them to pass resolutions against using your community as a thoroughfare or dumping ground for coal.
  • Connect with other groups promoting allied issues both locally and nationwide. “Stand with Native Americans” when it comes to water rights, suggests Oulman. Fight fracking and the Keystone Pipeline. “They’re all intertwined,” she concludes.

As are the train tracks that snake up and down the Pacific Northwest coast.

Originally published at

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