“We are very disappointed about the decision, but that does not diminish the amazing victory in Oregon,” Earthjustice attorney Adrian Martinez said in a statement provided to DeSmogBlog via email. “The decision in Long Beach just highlights the grasp that the fossil fuel industry has on the City's leaders.”
The Earthjustice legal challenge and the the subsequent August 19 hearing was not about banning coal or petcoke exports. Rather, Earthjustice and its clients requested that the City of Long Beach do an environmental impact statement for two companies given contracts to export the commodities for 15-20 years.
The proposal would send gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from the Marcellus Shale basin to the global market. The export terminal is opposed by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Maryland Sierra Club and a number of other local environment and community groups.
Cornell University’s Law School explains a non-disclosure agreement is a “legally binding contract in which a person or business promises to treat specific information as a trade secret and not disclose it to others without proper authorization.”
Upon learning about the agreement, Fred Tutman, CEO of Patuxent Riverkeeper — a group opposed to the LNG project — told DeSmogBlog he believes Calvert County officials are working “in partnership with Dominion to the detriment of citizen transparency.”
“We’re unhappy that it does seem to protect Dominion's interest rather than the public interest,” Tutman said. “The secrecy surrounding this deal has made it virtually impossible for anyone exterior to those deals, like citizens, to evaluate whether these are good transactions or bad transactions on their behalf.”
This Morrow Pacific Project is one of a handful of proposed export terminals that the industry hopes to build to help link coal from the strip mines of the Powder River Basin to overseas markets. As American demand for coal falls, companies (many foreign owned) are scrambling to access the growing Asian markets.
At issue with the export terminals is the process of review and approval, specifically with regard to the environmental impacts. As we wrote about the Morrow Pacific Project, the Army Corps has, at present, the final word in determining whether or not a terminal can be built. This is due primarily to the “dredge and fill” rules established in section 404 of the Clean Water Act, and the origin of Army Corps decisionmaking harkens all the way back to the Rivers and Harbons Appropriation Act of 1899.
Here’s the problem: in determining whether or not to approve a new facility such as a coal transfer terminal, the Army Corps is only compelled legally to look at the immediate environmental impacts at the site itself. These site-specific reviews wouldn’t take into account any broader of cumulative impacts, like, say, the impacts of coal dust along the route of the rail or barge traffic, nor the even broader and inevitable impacts of the coal’s combustion on mercury pollution and global climate disruption.
U.S. coal companies are facing some tricky math these days. Production levels have remained more or less the same since 2005, according to the Energy Information Agency (EIA), but during that time domestic consumption has dropped nearly 11 percent.
Where is all that extra coal going? Some is piling up at power plants, but increasingly, more and more of it is being shipped overseas.
The coal industry is hoping to accelerate that export trend, but their ability to keep delivering steady volumes of coal is entirely dependant on their ability to open up new export terminals at coastal ports around the country, particularly in the Pacific Northwest where the dirty rock could be more directly shipped to the burgeoning Asian markets.
Still, aside from some regional coverage and some incredible work from organizations like the Sightline Institute and Climate Solutions, these Northwest export terminals aren’t getting nearly the amount of attention from environmentalists and climate activists as, say, tar sands pipelines.
This post will serve as a basic overview of the current state of coal production and exports, and what the industry hopes to accomplish in coming years.
As demand for coal in the United States has cooled off in recent years, coal mining companies have been scrambling to deliver their dirty loads to customers abroad. But what does this mean for communities along the transportation routes, particularly at the ports and export terminals where the coal is offloaded from trains and onto boats?
The U.S.EPA, for one, is warning of the potential for “significant impacts to public health” in one such port town.
But that’s a small drop in the bucket (or lump in the stocking? sorry, couldn’t resist) of what coal companies hope to export in the very near future. (Farron Cousins covered the coal export trend here on DeSmogBlog earlier this year.)
Nowhere is the push to export coal being felt more than in the Pacific Northwest, where there are currently plans to ship more than 100 million tons each year, according to the Sightline Institute.
“In terms of exports from North America, whether it is the Gulf Coast or whether it is Western Canada, it’s something we’re actively looking at,” said Swiger.
So, where are these prospective export terminals located, what are the key pipelines carrying the unconventional gas produced from shale basins, and what are the key shale basins in the mix? Hold tight for an explanation.
Golden Pass LNG Terminal and Golden Pass Pipeline
The LNG World News article explains that ExxonMobil “has a stake in the Golden Pass LNG Terminal in Texas,” but does not explain exactly what the “stake” is.
Portland Metro Council President David Bragdon, says that mass migrations caused by climate change “the potential wild card” in the planning effort to ensure Oregon's biggest city has the capacity to accommodate growth expected in the coming decades.
The long-standing controversy over dam removal in Washington, Oregon and California has heightened with scientific recognition of man made carbon emissions in global warming. Power companies and others who favor keeping the dams tout them as a crucial source of so-called clean energy, while opponents say the dams are anything but clean because they foul water and kill fish to generate electricity.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.