No Coal Eugene unites local citizens to keep coal trains out of Eugene by asserting our community rights over corporate power. We refuse to let Big Coal poison the clean air, water and environment that make the Pacific Northwest a beautiful place to live. As we protect our homes in Eugene, we also stand in solidarity with those fighting coal interests across the country and around the world.
Protecting our community and environment
Why no coal?
Coal is also extremely dangerous to human health: coal ash releases toxic heavy metals into the air, which can lead to chronic bronchitis, emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis, among many other diseases. Eugene residents face a potential 500 lbs. of coal dust per train car spewing into our city – we can’t afford such environmental and human health detriments.
The Eugene Bill of Rights
Everyday citizens have little say in whether coal trains are permitted through our community. No Coal Eugene is working on a Eugene Bill of Rights that will allow people to stand up to Big Coal corporations and defend their homes. The ordinance is modeled after Coal-Free Bellingham‘s proposed Bill of Rights. More info coming soon.
The Lane County Commissioners Board is voting on the Coal Terminal on October 17th. There will be no work session, but if you are interested in helping out, there will be a public comment period before the meeting in which concerned citizens can speak directly to the Commissioners for up to three minutes. Or send thoughts to the County Commissioners through their email —
Come to the MONDAY, OCTOBER 8 PUBLIC FORUM in the Eugene Public Library to hear both sides of the issue. City Council is putting on the event so that the community has a chance to voice their opinions, as well as Coos Bay officials. Come at 5:30 if you wish to speak, and 7 if you wish to show solidarity (we will be passing out white surgical masks to NCE, Beyond Toxics, and other coalition members).
Before the event, at 4:00 pm, we will be meeting at the Beyond Toxics headquarters (12th and Lawrence) to rally and march together to the Public Library.
Here is a good article by Greycoast Anarchist News on the event,
No Coal Eugene presents “Northwest Coal Export & The Community Bill of Rights,” a pamphlet with lots of info on coal export, how it affects Eugene and how it can be stopped. We’ll be distributing hard copies around Eugene and at neighborhood events. Please share with your friends!
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BACKGROUND ON COAL EXPORT
The coal giants — Peabody, Arch, and the like — are seeking outlets in the Pacific Northwest to export strip-mined coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming to Asian markets. They have proposed six coal export terminal projects in Cherry Point, Longview and Grays Harbor, Wash., and St. Helens, Boardman and Coos Bay, Ore. If all of the proposals succeed, over 150 million tons of coal would be shipped through the Northwest every year. That’s three times the whole country’s current coal export.
In December 2011, the Port of Coos Bay announced “Project Mainstay,” a collaboration between the Port of Coos Bay and “unnamed partners” to build a coal export terminal on the North Spit. Of the six ports considering export proposals, Coos Bay is the only one that hasn’t disclosed the name of the coal company it’s in talks with. The Sierra Club and Beyond Toxics have requested information on the plans. The Port charged each group over $20,000 in fees for the documents and appealed the Coos County District Attorney’s decision to waive most of the fees.2 Oregonians still don’t know the details of the deal and how it will affect them.
Coos Bay was previously seen as a less viable port for coal export because of depth and accessibility. Last year, however, the Port of Coos Bay updated and reopened the Eugene-Coos Bay Rail Link, and in December Oregon’s Department of State Lands approved a plan to dredge the Coos Bay estuary.
Project Mainstay would have at least two full trains to Coos Bay and two empty trains back to the Powder River Basin rolling through Eugene every day.3 The trains typically carry 125 cars with 120 tons of coal per car and measure a mile and a half. Normal freighters require one diesel locomotive; coal trains need four.
WHY OPPOSE COAL EXPORT
To protect our local health, safety and environment:
Because coal is highly combustible, it must be transported in well ventilated — usually open-topped — train cars. And because the cars are uncovered, 500 pounds to a ton of coal dust can escape from each car while in transit, about three percent of its cargo. Coal dust contains heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, benzene, mercury and lead, and is known to cause pulmonary fibrosis and chronic bronchitis. Increased train traffic also means increased diesel exhaust, which is known to cause cancer, heart attack, stroke and asthma.
In Whatcom County, Washington, where Bellingham and surrounding communities will be impacted by the Cherry Point coal export terminal, over 160 physicians have come out against coal export. In Oregon, 130 doctors have asked Governor Kitzhaber to order a comprehensive “health impact assessment.” Physicians opposing coal export are primarily concerned with the effect of diesel particulates on pulmonary and neurological functions.
If Big Coal gets its way, everyone within five miles of the West Eugene train yard could experience an increased risk of asthma and cancer, especially in children and folks who have pre-existing respiratory problems. In Eugene, the Trainsong, River Road, Bethel and Whiteaker neighborhoods are particularly vulnerable. Other health and safety concerns include noise pollution, increased railroad mortality, and obstruction of emergency vehicle access.
An estimated 48,977 acres of land in the Northwest will be directly impacted by coal dust in export to Asia (see report “Heavy Traffic Ahead”). The accumulation of coal dust could damage our crops, contaminate our water, pollute our air, and poison our wildlife. Coal dust, as BNSF Railroad admits, corrodes and undermines rail infrastructure, so coal trains have a high risk of derailment. Five coal trains derailed in the U.S. within two-and-a-half weeks during the summer of 2012, one of them just outside the Columbia River Gorge in Washington. What’s to prevent a coal train from derailing in Eugene, or on neighboring farmland, or into the Fern Ridge Reservoir?
To support communities impacted by strip mining, coal dust, dredging and pollution where coal is burned:
Coal pollutes at every step of the way, from mine to power plant. Where it is mined, people put up with coal dust, nitrous oxide clouds from strip-mining explosives, poisonous tailing ponds that threaten water supplies, and ecological destruction. Black lung disease is increasing among mine workers despite tighter industry regulations.
Where coal is transported, people breathe in unsafe levels of diesel exhaust and coal dust, and dredging threatens local fisheries.
Where it is burned, coal causes asthma and lung disease. In 2011, the American Lung Association attributed over 13,000 deaths to power plant pollution, coal-fired plants being the main culprit. Dozens of coal-fired power plants across the midwest and east coast will be phased out in the next five years because of the risk they pose to public health. Coal exports will add our pollution as well, increasing the supply of our dirtiest fossil fuel to places where there is little to no regulation of coal-fired power plants. If coal is bad for our children, it is bad for children in Asia as well.
To discourage the use of fossil fuels as global climate change reaches the point of no return:
If all six ports build coal export terminals, 150 million tons of coal will be shipped from the Northwest to Asia every year. When this coal is burned it will release roughly 262 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This affects everyone.
U.S. communities have been working hard to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels. Coal export is a step backwards. The Boardman Coal Plant, Oregon’s last coal-burning utility, is scheduled to close in 2020. It burns 3 million tons of coal per year. If Project Mainstay succeeds, Coos Bay’s annual coal export could be as high as 10 million tons. (Coos Bay is one of the smaller proposed terminals; the largest is Cherry Point, which will export 44 million tons a year.)
To prevent the investment of public money and labor in volatile markets:
Oregon has tried to export coal before. The 1982 coal export partnership between the Port of Portland and Pacific Coal failed because the demand for coal plummeted. The public’s time, land and money invested into the project were wasted. There is no guarantee that coal export will be a worthwhile investment for the Pacific Northwest, and it may negatively impact local economies by impeding traffic to business districts, clogging up rail lines that are used for public transit and regional commerce, and lowering property values in the vicinity of the rail line.
If we’re going to invest in infrastructure to create jobs, shouldn’t it be in a market that promises steady employment for the future? We can do better than coal.
WHAT EUGENE CAN DO ABOUT IT: THE COMMUNITY BILL OF RIGHTS
140 communities across the country have successfully kept ecologically destructive industries (such as fracking, factory farming, toxic dumping, and water privatization) out of their municipalities by creating community bills of rights — a kind of legislation that gives communities the autonomy they need to decide what’s right for themselves. No Coal Eugene is proposing a Eugene Bill of Rights ordinance for the November 2013 ballot to keep coal trains out of our city limits. Read the ordinance in full at NoCoalEugene.org/ordinance. Here are some excerpts:
- “The people of Eugene recognize that environmental and economic sustainability cannot be achieved if the rights of municipal majorities are routinely overridden by corporate minorities claiming certain legal powers.” (Section 3)
- “Natural communities and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, flora, fauna, the atmosphere, soils, wetlands, rivers and other water systems, possess inalienable and fundamental rights to exist and flourish within the City of Eugene.” (Section 5.2)
- “The people at all times enjoy and retain an inalienable and indefeasible right to self-governance in the community where they reside.” (Section 5.4)
- “Corporations in violation of the prohibition against the transport of coal shall not have the rights of ‘persons’ afforded by the United States and Oregon Constitutions, nor shall those corporations be afforded the protections of the commerce or contracts clauses within the United States Constitution or corresponding sections of the Oregon Constitution.” (Section 6.2)
The ordinance is based on a similar initiative by the people of Bellingham, Wash. — visit Coal-Free-Bellingham.org for more info. This rights-based approach to organizing was pioneered by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF.org).
But how does it work? If BNSF sends a coal train down our tracks, how will a community bill of rights stop it?
In every case that communities have asserted their rights with local ordinances, corporations have either taken their pollution elsewhere or taken the locals to court. At the very least, a city ordinance would slow the coal company down. In order to overturn the ordinance, the company would have to admit in court that they valued their own right to commerce over our community’s right to health and safety. Out of 140 local ordinances, only two have been challenged. By showing strong community resistance to coal export, we could send those polluters packing.
Why do we need a local initiative? Why not use the established channels? Don’t we have laws and agencies to keep our air and water clean?
Our regulatory system actually favors the rights of corporations by allowing them to mitigate — rather than stop — harm to communities. Under our current system, coal companies do not have to ask for permission to bring their pollution through our town. If an industry pollutes our air and water and causes harm to our children, shouldn’t we have the right to decide if we want it around?
Really, our coal train problem is a democracy problem. The few who profit from coal export have all the decision making power, while the many who are harmed by it have no say. Rights-based organizing steps outside the power structure. It says we know what’s best for us, our health, our land, our economy.
Thanks to all who attended our Coal Export Action Roadshow last night! The event was sponsored by the UO Climate Justice League and the Survival Center, and was facilitated by our friend and CEA organizer, Lobo.
Lobo began by telling his personal story of getting attacked and arrested by Portland police on Mayday, then shared photos of Chinese workers at Foxconn (a sweatshop for Apple products), as well as indigenous people in India who were killed for trying to defend their land from being mined for resources. He asked how violence related to coal exports, Foxconn and resource mining – and why people in the US weren’t outraged about all of these things happening.
Various responses included that because we’re so privileged in the US, we don’t have to deal with the same life-threatening decisions as others around the world; our media keeps us insulated and unaware of these issues; most of us have never known anything else besides our industrialized, capitalist culture; and in general, people in the US are quite apathetic to these issues, thinking we’ll never be able to solve them on our own. In ways, our lifestyle protects the evils that perpetrate these systems of violence, injustice and oppression. Some of us don’t know what to do or whom to blame; we may not know what action(s) to take because we’re afraid to fail or have no model of success to follow.
After watching videos of Monday’s anti-coal rally in Portland, as well as one on current coal exports in Montana, the group concluded the event by realizing that while there isn’t just one solution, tackling the root of the problem (for coal exports, this would be coal mining in Montana and Wyoming) seems like the most effective way to start.
Check out this letter from No Coal Eugene member Jere Rosemeyer in today’s Register Guard – thanks, Jere!
Kitzhaber backs coal export review
I urge all those concerned about rapid climate change to read the full text of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s request for a comprehensive environmental impact statement regarding the coal train juggernaut facing Oregon.
It addresses in detail the harmful effects of transporting 157 million tons of coal through Oregon and Washington every year (two- to three-mile-long trains passing through Eugene daily).
Kitzhaber’s letter addresses the harmful effects to Oregon of Asian coal combustion. It mentions not only elevated mercury levels but also spells out all the deleterious effects of climate change. It questions the very concept of coal exports and asks how they can be consistent with “the larger strategy of moving to a low-carbon future.”
Oregon is on the front lines of the worldwide effort to prevent a runaway greenhouse catastrophe. What we decide will play a major role in determining the options available to future generations.
Those who want to curb global warming should contact NoCoalEugene to find out more about stopping the coal trains from passing through Oregon.
Jere C. Rosemeyer, Eugene
I’ve been doing some research on the Port of Coos Bay and coal exports in Oregon, and recently found these interesting articles that I thought I’d pass on to you all. Here are some nuggets of information for your Sunday morning reading:
- Although Big Coal has had some setbacks this year, the Pacific Northwest should expect a long, hard fight to keep the dirty industry out of the region. “[E]ach terminal will create scores of jobs, not hundreds, and many of them will be temporary construction jobs. But these are depressed communities, and, as we know, we’re talking here about the political third rail in this frail economy.” (Dirty Industry, Dirty Fight: Big Coal Is On The Ropes, But Not Down For The Count, ThinkProgress)
- Oregon’s Department of State Lands must decide whether to approve a permit to expand docks in the Port of Boardman, which could potentially export coal to markets overseas – which is why dozens rallied in protest at the DSL office in Salem last week. The DSL has fewer than 60 days to make a decision. (Oregonians Protest Coal Exports, KOHD)
- The Oregon Sierra Club has an online petition for a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to be conducted on the Port of Morrow, as well as all Pacific Northwest ports that may export coal, by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Sign the petition here.
- The Port of Coos Bay and its partners will spend the next six months – and $300,000 – to continue studying “the feasibility of exporting coal from somewhere on the North Spit of Coos Bay.” (Port: Coal needs further study, The World)
- Coal exported from Coos Bay will not be going to China, according to the Port’s CEO David Koch. Also:
The Port has signed a confidentiality agreement and isn’t naming the companies involved. However, EarthFix has learned the Japanese conglomerate Mitsui and California-based Metro Ports are two of the key players in a bid to develop a coal export terminal with the Port of Coos Bay. (EarthFix)
- “Asian demand for low-sulfur Powder River Basin coal is driving the export terminal pursuits in the Pacific Northwest. Export terminals in British Columbia are shipping coal to Asian markets but have been unable to keep up with the growing demand across the Pacific.” (International investors want in on Oregon coast coal terminal, EarthFix)
Today is Earth Day, an appropriate day for No Coal Eugene to get together to plan our campaign to keep coal trains out of our city and state. A few teams will be meeting today and tomorrow – if you’re interested in joining us, check out how to get involved!
In our last post we shared the Sustainability Commission‘s recently-approved letter to City Council opposing coal trains; in this post we’ll be talking about a letter from Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) regarding coal export in Coos Bay. The letter was originally dated January 24, 2012 but it was discussed at the Commission’s April 4 meeting. Read the entire letter here.
In summary, DeFazio’s letter is a polite request to the International Port of Coos Bay to be mindful of fugitive coal dust; to “ask [prospective rail carriers] to consider using enclosed rail cars to minimize public health impacts from coal dust;” and to enforce “stringent containment prevention methods” should the port become an export terminal.
DeFazio’s stance is commendable in his promptness to address Project Mainstay, but his letter lacks a concern for long-term economic and environmental effects on the region due to coal exports, as well as a sense of urgency in taking action on the matter. As a champion of the people, DeFazio should know that Big Coal’s corporate interests have no place in our state.
While we applaud DeFazio’s prompt acknowledgement of the issue, we hope our representative steps up his environmental advocacy in the coming months – we’ll need his support when we step up to the plate with Big Coal!
We’ve had a busy last few weeks here at No Coal Eugene: our various committees have been planning actions, talking to the media and drafting a city ordinance. But we wanted to share a small victory from a few weeks ago, when the Eugene Sustainability Commission approved a letter opposing coal trains to send to City Council. The full letter can be viewed here.
“Allowing coal trains to pass through our City is not compatible with state and regional efforts to close coal plants, nor with local goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, enhance public health and promote local food production,” the statement reads. “Furthermore, coal mining, export and combustion … undermine Eugene’s efforts to reduce emissions that cause climate change and develop clean energy jobs.”
In the letter the Commission recommends the following actions be taken by the City:
- Direct the City Manager and appropriate staff to identify all possible actions the City can take to prevent the transport of coal through Eugene;
- Pass a resolution or ordinance to oppose coal export from Coos Bay and transport through Eugene;
- Inform Governor Kitzhaber, Port of Coos Bay officials and coal companies involved in proposals to transport coal through Eugene, that the City will enforce all applicable local, state and federal laws protecting public health, safety and air and water quality to prevent the transport of coal through the City; and
- Join other cities in Oregon to lobby the Governor and legislature to oppose coal export terminals in the State of Oregon.
Some interesting figures were thrown into the letter, including the number of local jobs that may be created through coal exports in Coos Bay (30 to 45); the amount of coal dust that escapes from each train car (3% of a “typically” 100-ton load); and the amount of mercury deposited in the Northwest via coal burning in China each year (1,400 tons).
The Sustainability Commission also addressed letters regarding coal exports from Rep. Peter Defazio and the Port of Coos Bay International – more on those letters soon!
http://kezi.com/news/local/244341 – Click here for video!
Taken from KEZI.com:
EUGENE, Ore. — A coal train chugged its way through the University of Oregon campus Monday afternoon.
It was meant to bring attention to the coal trains that could soon head through Eugene and other parts of Western Oregon.
It was quite the spectacle if you happened to be studying or eating lunch near the Erb Memorial Union around noon. Members of No Coal Eugene hopped on their no coal train, leaving a thick cloud of activism behind them. Equipped with a conductor and cabooses, members shouted phrases like ‘Coal Train Comin’ Through!’ while hacking.
They ended their route in the middle of the amphitheater by dramatically faking their deaths.
Members say they want people to be aware of the dangers uncovered coal would present if it came through the city.”A lot of people in Eugene don’t know that we’re gonna be having coal trains coming through and they’re not given any say on whether or not they are gonna come through because we’re valuing the rights of this coal company over the rights of the people here,” said Grace Warner from No Coal Eugene.
The Port of Coos Bay signed a contract with an unknown company in October. They’re still in talks about shipping coal out of the harbor, but estimates show 15,000 tons could pass through Eugene each day. “No Coal” says during this shipment process, large amounts of coal can fall out and Eugenians would inhale an unsafe amount of the dust. No Coal Eugene plans to make its voice loud and clear with more action like this in the future.