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Snippets of environmental news content from EarthFix and other trusted places. Curated by Toni Tabora-Roberts.
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Bonnie Meltzer is a political artist living in North Portland and an organizer with the North Portland Coal Committee. She is concerned about the impact of coal trains coming through her neighborhood. The issue has become a focal point in her art work.

Produced by Toni Tabora-Roberts and Bonnie Stewart.

Read more about Coal in the Northwest at earthfix.info/coal.

The first in a three-part series from Crosscut explaining the ins and outs of the proposed coal export project at Gateway Pacific Terminal near Bellingham, Washington. If approved, it would be the largest coal export terminal in the country.

EarthFix has also been covering this issue.

Credit: April Baer. Construction workers with hard hats and orange vests perched in the gallery at City Hall to remind council of the business and labor groups that want to see more coal traffic. Last night Portland City Council voted to oppose the coal train projects proposed for the region.

Read more on Coal in the Northwest.

Portland is exploring its power to regulate the coal industry as the business looks to expand in the Northwest.

City Commissioner Amanda Fritz has drafted a proposal that would put Portland on the record opposing coal export shipments traveling along rail lines within city limits until more is known about the possible health and environmental effects of those shipments.

Fritz is seeking re-election to the Council. Northwest politicians at the local, state and federal levels have been raising the issue and calling for additional study of the impact coal trains could have on traffic, human health the economy and the environment.

Fritz says her resolution is in response to community concern. Her resolution calls on the rail companies to give proper public notification of any expansion in rail traffic.

It also asks the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete a full Environmental Impact Statement. That’s a technical term for a complete in-depth study, typically conducted over a period of years. Fritz’s request asks specifically for an “area-wide” EIS, incorporating projects across the region.

The corps sometimes conducts what’s called an environmental assessment. That’s less in-depth than the impact statement, and would take less time. Fritz says the latter is not acceptable.

“We want an environmental impact statement rather than an environmental assessment because that allows more pubic input. We know this is an issue people care about on all sides,” Fritz says.

Read more

We need facts. How much coal dust will be released into our neighborhoods? How dangerous is this coal dust? How dangerous are the toxic heavy metals contained in this coal dust? How risky is the significant new diesel particulate pollution in our community?

An aerial tour of coal mines in the Powder River Basin. Check out the recent coverage by EarthFix on Coal in the Northwest.

Bonus: Can you name the aria playing?

Coal in the Northwest 101. More at EarthFix.

The amount of coal dust that escapes from PRB coal trains is surprisingly large. While the amount of coal dust that escapes from a particular coal car depends on a number of factors, including the weather, BNSF has done studies indicating that from 500 lbs to a ton of coal can escape from a single loaded coal car. Other reports have indicated that as much as 3% of the coal loaded into a coal car can be lost in transit. In many areas, a thick layer of black coal dust can be observed along the railroad right of way and in between the tracks. Given the high volume of loaded coal trains that move each day in the PRB, large amounts of coal dust accumulate rapidly along the PRB rail lines.
An excerpt from the Burlington North Santa Fe Railroad fact sheet on its new coal dust emissions rules from Ecotrope’s post How Much Coal Dust Will There Really Be? which looks at concerns about public health impacts of proposed coal trains coming from the Powder River Basin through the Pacific Northwest on its way to Asia.

Coal train. Near Gillette, Wyoming.