Coal

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City officials in Sandpoint are defending banning the public from a meeting about oil and coal train traffic attended by three area mayors, a state senator, county commissioner and officials from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

Sandpoint Mayor Carrie Logan tells the Bonner County Daily Bee that the meeting Thursday was for information only and no actions were taken.

side.tracked / Flickr Creative Commons

Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad wants to build a second bridge in northern Idaho to handle an expected increase in traffic that includes coal and oil trains.

Railway spokesman Gus Melonas tells The Spokesman-Review in a story on Wednesday that the one bridge at Sandpoint restricts train traffic.

The railway wants to build another bridge about 50 feet west of the existing bridge that crosses Lake Pend Oreille where it meets the Pend Oreille River.

Idaho Power Co. can spend tens of millions to clean up its Wyoming coal-fired power plant and expect ratepayers to cover the project's cost, but regulators want quarterly updates on whether these emission-control investments continue to make sense as federal environmental rules change.

Announced Monday by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, the decision aims to ensure Idaho's biggest utility isn't locked into the estimated $130 million project if alternatives to coal emerge as better for ratepayers.

Poll Finds NW Residents’ Support For Coal Eroding

Jun 19, 2013
Courtney Flatt / Earthfix

A new survey finds support for coal export terminals has dropped over the past year among Northwest residents. It also finds support for a region-wide approach to measuring the environmental impact of exporting coal.

A public opinion poll for EarthFix asked Northwest residents how they felt about transporting coal from Montana and Wyoming through the Northwest. That coal would then be exported to Asia. There are now three proposed export terminals in the region.

DHM Research surveyed 483 residents in Washington, Oregon and Idaho from Friday through Monday.

The federal agency in charge of approving Northwest coal export terminals told a congressional panel Monday it will not be considering the effects of burning coal on the climate.

The Army Corp of Engineers is overseeing the environmental review for the three terminals proposed for Washington and Oregon waterways. Together they could bring 100 million tons of coal to the Asian market from the Powder River basin of Wyoming and Montana.

Katie Campbell / EarthFix

The Federal government is missing out on tens of millions of dollars in revenue from companies that mine coal on public lands.  That’s according to a new report released by the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The new report details inadequate mine inspection practices and a lack of enforcement on the part of the Bureau of Land Management.

The number of coal export terminals proposed for Oregon and Washington has dropped from six to three. But a dozen Northwest groups aren’t backing down from their call for a regional impact study of the coal projects.

The groups filed a legal petition Wednesday with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They want the corps to study the environmental impacts of transporting coal by train and barge from mines in Montana and Wyoming to shipping terminals.

Courtney Flatt / Earthfix

A coalition of tribal leaders and politicians gathered in Seattle Monday to announce the formation of a new group that opposes coal exports in the Northwest.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and State Representative Reuven Carlyle were among a group of Washington politicians and tribal leaders who announced the creation of the Leadership Alliance Against Coal. The group says it will work to “raise awareness about the damaging economic, cultural and health impacts of coal trains and coal exports”.

Marketplace/APM

A coalition of environmental groups that oppose exporting coal through terminals in the Northwest have announced plans to file a lawsuit against BNSF Railway and several coal companies.

The groups say coal that escapes from trains is polluting the water and should be regulated under the Clean Water Act.

Environmental groups have collected samples of black rock in waterbodies along train tracks in the Northwest and found that some of that rock is coal.

Marketplace/APM

For the last year EarthFix has been looking at the issue of coal being exported through the Northwest.

There are five proposed coal export terminals under consideration in Washington and Oregon. They would be built to transfer coal off of trains from Wyoming and Montana mines and on to ships bound for Asia.

Some coal dust will escape along the journey from the mines to the terminals.

The Black Thunder mine  located near Gillette, Wyoming is one of the largest open pit mines in the world.

Katie Campbell / EarthFix

There are now five coal export terminals under consideration in Washington and Oregon.
Environmental groups, businesses and communities along rail lines are asking questions about the potential impacts of transporting coal through the Northwest.

Some of those questions are about coal dust. How much of it will escape along the journey from Wyoming and Montana mines to the proposed export terminals on the West Coast? And how might the dust impact the health of people who live along the train routes?

Katie Campbell / EarthFix

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden was recently named Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. And one of his first moves was asking the administration to investigate the royalties it receives for coal mined on public land. 

The Bureau of Land Management owns vast reserves of coal in Wyoming and Montana. Companies like Arch Coal and Peabody Energy mine it, sell it, and pay the government its cut.

Michael Werner / EarthFix

More than 2,000 people showed up Thursday to tell regulators what they think should be considered in the environmental review of a proposed coal export terminal near Bellingham, Wash. If built, it could be the largest such facility on the West Coast.

Poll Finds Northwesterners Support Coal Export Proposals

Jul 27, 2012
Kimon Berlin / Creative Commons

A new poll finds that most residents in the Northwest are supportive of transporting coal through the region for export to Asia. DHM Research conducted the poll for Earthfix.

"Obama, rein in your regs."
That was on a sign that Wyatt Fitch held up when the President visited Portland this week.

Fitch was showing his support for proposed coal export terminals in Oregon.

Courtney Flatt / Earthfix

This week crews are cleaning up about 30 train cars full of coal that overturned near Mesa, in Eastern Washington. The accident has raised questions about proposed increased train shipments of coal through the nearby Columbia River Gorge.

Huge machinery had to be trucked in from the Tri-Cities to clean up the black dusty mess in the rural burg east of Yakima. Car loads of coal overturned and damaged the tracks there.

Spokane Has Concerns Over Proposed Coal Terminals

Apr 11, 2012
Courtney Flatt

The prospect of trains carrying a mile-long string of coal cars has some Spokane area residents concerned. Proposals to build coal shipping terminals on the Washington coast to ship coal to China could have an impact on the Spokane region. The coal would be shipped from Wyoming via train, and those trains would come right through the city of Spokane.

The plan has many concerned about what the impact would be.

Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

Environmental groups are mobilizing against proposals to export coal through Northwest terminals. That coal would be mined in the Rockies and travel by train across Idaho to Oregon and Washington ports to be shipped to Asia.   Protesters rallied in Oregon’s capital Monday. They're asking Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber to block permits for several coal terminals.

Critics say the coal-laden trains would spew dust and block traffic. And environmental groups oppose the use of coal as an energy source regardless of where and how it's shipped.

Coal Train Traffic Increase Could Be Bad News For Health

Mar 29, 2012
Courtney Flatt

There are now six new export terminals proposed to be built along the Northwest coast. The goal? To bring American coal to Asia, via train and ship.

If these terminals are approved that could mean more than 100 million tons of coal traveling by rail across Idaho, Washington and Oregon every year.

The potential for more train traffic has public health experts concerned.