In January, Kinder Morgan—a giant energy conglomerate—announced plans to use an Oregon port on the Columbia River to export 30 million tons of coal annually to China and other Asian markets. Many in the Northwest worry about the health risks, pollution, and economic risks that are entailed by the plans. Already tribes and environmental organizations are raising serious concernsabout handling large volumes of coal on the Columbia.

A look at Kinder Morgan’s track record in communities where the company already exports coal reveals that these worries may be well-founded.

Coal dust pollutes the Mississippi River at Kinder Morgan’s coal export terminal in Myrtle Grove, Louisiana.

Many of Kinder Morgan’s coal export operations blight neighborhoods and foul rivers. The company’s track record in the Northwest and beyond is one of pollution, law-breaking, and cover-ups. Moreover, the proposed Oregon terminal would be the company’s biggest yet.

  • In Louisiana, Kinder Morgan’s coal export facilities are so dirty that satellite photos clearly show coal dust pollution spewing into the Mississippi River.
  • In South Carolina, coal dust from Kinder Morgan’s terminal contaminates oysters, pilings, and boats. Locals have even caught the company on video washing coal directly into sensitive waterways.
  • In Virginia, Kinder Morgan’s coal export terminal is an open sore on the neighborhood, coating nearby homes in dust so frequently that even the mayor is speaking out about the problem.
  • In Portland, Kinder Morgan officials bribed a ship captain to illegally dump contaminated material at sea, and their operations have repeatedly polluted the Willamette River.
  • Kinder Morgan has been fined by the US government for stealing coal from customers’ stockpiles, lying to air pollution regulators, illegally mixing hazardous waste into gasoline, and many other crimes.
  • Kinder Morgan’s pipelines are plagued by leaks and explosions, including two large and dangerous spills in residential neighborhoods in British Columbia.

In public, Kinder Morgan likes to point out that the firm already operates coal export facilities in Virginia, South Carolina, and Louisiana. “It’s just a location,” a company’s spokesperson told the Portland Business Journal about the planned site near Clatskanie.

“What we’re proposing is not something we don’t already do.”

And that’s exactly the problem.

In “The Facts about Kinder Morgan,” Sightline Institute explores the company’s misbehavior so that Northwest residents can decide for themselves whether Kinder Morgan’s coal export plans belong in the region.

Read more here.