Two national stories in the last week have turned a spotlight on the proposed coal export terminal in Bellingham, WA. (If you’ve somehow missed our thorough work on the subject, take a look here.)

First, Stacey Shultz for National Geographic, last Friday:

Bellingham, Washington, is admired for its green power purchases, its innovative building efficiency program, and the “buy local” ethos of its bustling Saturday farmers’ market.

But the fossil energy world now has its eye on this small coastal city just 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the Canadian border.

And today, Richard Harris for NPR’s Morning Edition:

  • Plans are afoot to build giant new coal terminals on the West Coast to ship this lucrative commodity to China. But activists want to stop this, in part because coal produces huge amounts of carbon dioxide when it’s burned. Federal climate policy is silent on this potentially large source of emissions, so the debate is happening at the local level.

    One fight is taking place over a proposed terminal near Bellingham, Wash. And if you want to get a sense of what the proposed coal terminal there would be like, visit Westshore Terminals just across the border in Vancouver, BC.

    Harris provides some vivid details from the BC terminal:

    The dusty coal piles also need to be managed so they don’t simply burst into flames—a phenomenon called spontaneous combustion.

    “The best way to deal with spontaneous combustion is to compact the product or turn it over quickly. And that’s what we try to do,” Horgan says.

    At the end of our tour, Horgan asks me to roll up my window so we can drive through the car wash that’s right on site. But even after that rinse, coal dust still clings to the van.

    Coal dust? Spontaneous combustion? It’s pretty obvious just how dirty—and downright dangerous—coal is. It’s great to see this kind of nationwide focus on our local issue. The decisions made in Bellingham (and elsewhere in the Northwest) will help determine Cascadia’s role as a coal dealer.

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