Washington is facing an onslaught of proposals for transporting more oil and coal through Washington and the greater Pacific Northwest. In response, communities across the entire state and region are speaking up against these plans and forging a path toward a stronger clean energy future.
At WEC, we mobilize communities, engage decision makers, deploy legal tools, and elevate the issue in public to stand up against the fossil fuel companies and prevent the expansion of coal export and oil transport facilities through the Northwest. From saying no to a massive coal export facility proposed at Cherry Point to fighting the nation’s largest proposed oil by rail terminal in Vancouver, WA, we’re working alongside communities across the state to reduce the risks of these proposals.
Standing Up To Oil
Oil transported by train, pipeline, and tanker vessels impacts all of Washington – from Spokane to Vancouver to Grays Harbor to Bellingham. And right now, Washington is facing a dramatic increase in the amount and the type of oil moving through our state – and considering proposals for much more.
We are seeing more oil from areas like the Bakken region in North Dakota and the Tar Sands area in Alberta, Canada come in via mile-long trains that are known to spill, catch fire, and even explode when they derail. We are also seeing more oil transit our waterways – from the Columbia River to Puget Sound – in under-regulated and unsafe barges. These changes pose dramatic threats to our communities, waterways, and climate. The oil industry has plans for to increase this traffic dramatically by building up to five new oil terminals in Washington, but we are standing strong against plans to turn our region into a major oil transport hub.
WEC is a founding member of Stand Up to Oil, a growing coalition of groups opposed to new oil terminals and an increase in oil transport through the Northwest, while at the same time working to improve safety measures for the oil currently traveling through the region. As a statewide organization, WEC is working with our partner groups to fight back against the oil industry and to build the coalition needed to transition away from these dangerous projects. We are working to stop proposed oil terminals in Vancouver, Grays Harbor, an oil-by-rail expansion at the Shell Refinery in Anacortes, and potential refinery in Longview. We are also collaborating with partners to prevent an expansion of an already operating terminal in Columbia County, Oregon.
In collaboration with our partners and Earthjustice, WEC is ensuring that each of the terminals receive a full and thorough review, with ample opportunities for public input. WEC is also working on local, state, and federal policies to both make it more difficult to build terminals and also to ensure the safe transport of the oil already coming into our region to the Washington’s five refineries. We are working in the legislature, educating the public on these issues, and providing citizens with the opportunity to speak up.
Across Washington, there has been an ongoing groundswell of concern about the impacts of oil transport:
In the media, there have been articles about rail congestion impacting Washington’s wheat growers (Seattle Times) and wheat growers across the nation (New York Times), the risk of oil spills in our waters (OPB), the oil train derailment in Seattle (KOMO), and an article about the movement against an oil terminal in Grays Harbor (King 5).
Cities and counties, tribal nations, unions, and others have continued to pass resolutions voicing their concern around oil trains and tankers. So far nearly 50 have been passed, including ones in the terminal cities of Vancouver and Hoquiam, by the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters, and the Quinault Indian nation. These resolutions call for the need to take action to address the growing threat, deny permits, and call for accountability and analysis of the threat to our economy, rail system, and environment.
Powering Past Coal
Americans have turned to cleaner energy, and we are moving beyond the dirty, outdated fossil fuels of the past. WEC is a founding member of the Power Past Coal coalition which helps citizens stand up against plans to build massive coal export terminals in the region and look to a better, cleaner future for our children and communities.
Coal is the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fossil fuel. Becoming a gateway for coal export would fly in the face of our region’s leadership in the clean energy economy. Shipping up to a hundred million tons of coal a year to Asia through West Coast ports would spread toxic coal dust in communities all along the rail line, clog our railroads and ports, risk our families’ health, pollute our air and water, and stoke the climate crisis.
Coal companies stand to make profits. Asia would get the energy. The West Coast, especially the Northwest, would pay the price. We can do better than coal export to build our region’s economy. Washington and Oregon have a long and proud history of economic innovation, and our region already supports thousands of high-tech and clean energy jobs. We should focus on building those industries – not supporting and becoming a middleman in the world’s industries of the past like dirty coal.
We need to power past coal. We can do better, keeping our local economies strong and the places we love intact for our families. The costs to our health, quality of life, and our home towns are too high.