Across the Northwest people are taking action to prevent coal export projects from derailing our clean energy future. This is a movement that began in port towns. Now it is spreading as, inspired by communities like Longview and Bellingham, towns and cities across the region take action to halt coal exports.
This weekend saw one of the most far-reaching bursts of coal-related activism the region has witnessed, as residents of three states participated in a weekend of action to stop coal exports, and called for further action. In places like Olympia, Washington; Missoula, Montana; and Eugene and Portland, Oregon, Northwest residents visited elected officials, staged banner-drops from local landmarks, and rallied their communities to reclaim our future from fossil fuel giants.
In Portland on Sunday, members of the Cascade Climate Network and Portland Rising Tide scaled a billboard for a banner drop, while forty people gathered below spelled out “No Coal Exports” and “Export CEOs.”
“Big coal knowingly poisons our land, water and communities for the sake of their bottom line,” said Chelsea Thaw of the
Cascade Climate Network. “Coal is the biggest contributor to global climate change, and as we teeter on the threshold of climate chaos we must reject all coal infrastructure.”
Two days earlier, Eugene and Olympia took action. In Olympia, Washington students met with elected officials and urged them to deny coal export terminal permits. In Oregon, the group No Coal Eugene dropped a banner reading “Stop the Coal Train” from a multi-story parking lot. Eugene is one of many cities that could soon see dirty, polluting coal trains running through town on their way to new export sites, if coal companies get their way.
On Sunday in Missoula, the student-run Blue Skies Campaign and Occupy Missoula held a March Against Coal Exports after Rocky Mountain Power Shift. The group stopped by the offices of members of Congress who have sided with the coal industry. They also visited Wells Fargo, one of the top 20 funders of coal, to hold a die-in and turn ATMs into truth machines. The march ended with a banner drop above Orange Street, which dips below tracks owned by Montana Rail Link used to transport coal, and with a call for an even larger mass mobilization this summer.
“Every day I deal with coal dust and diesel fumes from trains,” said local business owner Mark Kersting, who spoke to the group immediately before the march. Pollution from existing train traffic is already a health concern for residents like Kersting who lives near the MRL tracks and fueling station. If companies like Arch Coal, Peabody, and Ambre Energy get their way, the number of coal trains passing through town could increase five-fold or more.
The Northwest is fired up to stop coal exports, and our work is just beginning. This weekend the newly formed No Coal Northwest collective called on people everywhere affected by coal exports to converge a thousand strong this summer in Montana, which sits on the biggest coal reserves in the contiguous United States.
At the Coal Export Action, scheduled to take place in the lead-up to the August 20th meeting of the Montana Land Board (which makes decisions about coal mining on state lands), we’ll be gathering in the Montana capitol of Helena. Following in the footsteps of the Tar Sands Action and the Occupy movement, we’ll use non-violent direct action to reclaim the halls of state government from the coal industry.
Momentum is building for the Coal Export Action, and a quick plug from Bill McKibben during Rocky Mountain Power Shift certainly didn’t hurt. You can now sign up to join the action online. Please join us!