The New York Times’ William Yardley has a must-read bombshell today. It shines a light on secret plans by a giant coal company to export huge volumes of coal to China through a small community in Washington:

Court records show that leaders of the company planning to build the facility, now called Millennium Bulk Terminals, tried to limit what state officials knew about its long-term goals during the early permitting process last year.

“Limit what state officials knew” is putting it mildly. “Flat-out lied” is more like it.

As the staid NYT explains:

The company’s initial application described a facility that could export up to five million tons of coal per year. But court records show that the company hoped to greatly expand that amount in a second phase to 20 million tons or even 60 million tons annually.

Columbia Riverkeeper, a local advocacy group, has compiled the damning evidence for the public to see. And if you take a look at the company’s internal documents, it’s pretty clear that a big coal company was trying to hoodwink the community of Longview. What they pitched as a so-called “bulk materials handling port,” capable of sending five million tons of coal to China—a very significant project in its own right—was really a Trojan Horse for a mega-terminal shoveling as much as 60 million tons of coal annually through a small town.

That’s a staggering amount: 60 million tons of coal is the carbon equivalent of all the gasoline burned yearly in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, and the northern half of California combined.

Needless to say, that quantity of coal could be a big blow to Longview. Coal dust blowing from rail cars and storage piles could contaminate local air, water, and soils—all of it potentially impacting public health. Huge coal trains would bottle up rail and street traffic. And the pollution from the coal when it’s burned—mercury, sulfur, and carbon-dioxide—will literally spread their poisons all the way from eastern China to the Pacific Northwest. But more on all that later.