On Friday evening, October 19, performer and environmental educator Dana Lyons will bring his Great Coal Train Tour to Moscow. Visiting communities from Billings to Bellingham and from Portland to Coos Bay along the route of proposed coal export trains through four Northwestern states, Dana’s fun, inspiring, and family-oriented concerts intermingled with informational sessions foster interest and understanding of this significant regional issue. His tour provides accurate and intricate descriptions of coal export impacts, as it catalyzes public discussion, networking, and engagement with organizers opposing this regionally and globally detrimental scheme.
Singer and guitarist Dana Lyons hails from Bellingham, Washington – ground-zero of Northwest resistance to coal exports, near the largest proposed coal export facility in North America, SSA Marine’s Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point. Best known for his comedy hit song Cows with Guns, Dana has recorded eight albums during his lifetime artistic career, including Circle the World and At Night They Howl at the Moon: Environmental Songs for Kids. Working around the Earth to raise awareness, activism, and funds for environmental and social justice issues, Dana has collaborated with Dr. Jane Goodall and her environmental group Roots and Shoots.
While federal, state, and county agencies accept public scoping comments on prospective West Coast port construction, five local conservation organizations are hosting this benefit concert and presentation, to bolster community knowledge of potential Northwest coal export trains and ports: Wild Idaho Rising Tide, the Palouse Group of the Sierra Club, Friends of the Clearwater, Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition, and the Palouse Broadband of Great Old Broads for Wilderness.
In response to decreasing domestic coal demand, the world’s largest suppliers, such as Arch Coal and Peabody Energy, plan to strip mine millions of tons of Powder River Basin coal in Montana and Wyoming and haul it on 50-plus, 1.5-mile-long trains per day to massive coal export terminals on the Columbia River and Pacific coast. The targeted Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail corridor extends through Missoula, Sandpoint, and Spokane to the river gorge and ports near Longview and Bellingham, Washington, and Boardman, St. Helens, and Coos Bay, Oregon. Because noisy coal trains emit diesel fumes and coal dust and block traffic and emergency responses, rail line communities anticipate adverse impacts to public health, quality of life, regional identity, and local jobs, businesses, property values, and economies. Substantial taxpayer investments would support required project infrastructure and mitigate damages. Coal terminals and ship transport would affect air quality, marine ecosystems, and fisheries, while coal combustion by Asian recipients would significantly exacerbate global climate change.
“Coal is a dirty and dying industry, so mining companies are desperately searching for a lifeline to the Chinese market. Let’s not enable this crime against the environment,” advises Pat Rathmann of the Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition. “We need to leave these increasingly dirty fossil fuels in the ground, and instead concentrate on clean, renewable energy sources,” asserts Al Poplawsky of the Palouse Group of the Sierra Club. Ashley Lipscomb of the Palouse Broadband of Great Old Broads for Wilderness concurs: “Fossil fuel extraction is not worth the mega-problems that we are passing on to future generations. Let’s be forward-thinking, global citizens and look to energy alternatives that do not mar Mother Earth.”
Renewable energy generation in the region continues to expand, despite occasional incursions from outmoded energy extraction ventures. “Whether it is tar sands modules or China-bound coal trains, the Pacific Northwest should not become a conduit for dirty energy projects,” states Brett Haverstick of Friends of the Clearwater. Helen Yost of Wild Idaho Rising Tide affirms that, “Although the Northwest has characteristically initiated U.S. opposition to tar sands imports and coal exports, without intensified dirty energy resistance, all North Americans risk our health and home places becoming carbon resource sacrifice zones for the world market. As the primary contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, we share an ethical and economic responsibility to provide innovative, environmentally sustainable solutions to the climate crisis, not more fossil fuels and accompanying pollution for our global community.”
All five groups invite the public to Dana’s performance at 7 pm on Friday, October 19, in the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse at 420 East Second Street in Moscow. We welcome everyone with or without $5 or more donations for admission, and offer appetizers and no-host beer and wine for participants. Please print and post the color, 11-by-17-inch Dana Lyons 2012 Coal Train Tour Moscow Poster and the Dana Lyons 2012 Coal Train Tour Moscow B&W Half-Page Flyer. Explore Dana’s music, videos, and tour schedule at Cows With Guns and his coal train song, Sometimes. To learn more about proposed regional coal exports, visit Power Past Coal, Coal Train Facts, and Coal-Free Bellingham.