Coal Industry to Northwest: “Back away from your future. Resistance is futile.”

Talk about a good way to ruin that first Sunday morning cup of coffee….

Seattle woke up today to a litany of coal export insults, front page in the Seattle Times:  “…an explosion of diesel exhaust”; “… long, traffic-snarling trains”; “…more accidents and marine vessel groundings”; “…poison aquatic food webs.”

….and that’s before the story turns to “the most far-reaching issue:  the potential effect new markets for coal could have on greenhouse gas emissions.”

Oregon, Washington, and many local governments insist that the federal government take a comprehensive look at the issue, including the climate impacts.  One way or the other, decisions about coal export amount to fateful climate policy decisions.  Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber said, in his strongly worded letter to the feds:

“In the absence of a clear federal policy on this point, we will simply be deciding by not deciding.”

“Deciding by not deciding” is, of course, exactly what the coal industry proposes.  The last thing they can afford is a conscious decision, on the merits, in full view of all the facts.  When asked about a review of climate impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act, coal industry analyst Andy Robert said,

“…[NEPA is] a national – not an international – act.  I think people against this kind of development will reach for any lever they can pull.”

Yes, these “people” are ruthless.  That crafty and devious Governor Kitzhaber will stoop so low as to invoke the National Environmental Policy Act as a way of analyzing the gravest environmental threat ever to face the nation.  And that’s just the camel’s nose.  What will they do next?  Pass a law against free and unlimited dumping of carbon emissions into the atmosphere?  They must be stopped!

The coal industry’s strategy is clear:  convince us that we are powerless, so we might as well just roll over and turn the Pacific Northwest into a conveyor belt for their “bulk commodity.”  They try to avoid saying “coal” because that just leads to discussions of mercury poisoning and asthma and acid rain,…and then, inevitably, you know, climate disruption.  And everybody knows we can’t fix that.  It’s a global thing.  Let the global people worry about it.

So, c’mon Northwest, lighten up.  Just take the path of least resistance and don’t look at the climate reality, because you can’t do anything about it any way.  The best policy for dealing with intractable evil is simple:  See no evil!

And remember, Big Coal warns ominously, WE CAN DO THIS THE EASY WAY, OR WE CAN DO IT THE HARD WAY.

“The industry is geared up for a long fight, and in the end I think there will be ports developed,” says coal industry analyst Michael Dudas.  “How long that will take and how extensive it will be…that is yet to be determined.”

Let’s see….When does Hell freeze over?

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