Lots of folks converged on coal train hearings in Portland, Oregon, yesterday, with more than 500 people signing up to deliver comments to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
The DEQ has tried to put a box around coal export terminals on the coast, suggesting that the trains themselves, which would run up the Columbia River, shouldn’t be an issue. If the terminals don’t hurt the environment, what’s the problem?
The coal trains shimmying and shunting up the river would spread coal dust around important riparian areas, while endangering the health of communities along the way. The coal, itself, would likely be exported to China where they definitely don’t have a problem with pollution—and the coal that they burn in China would probably blow straight back over to Portland in the form of carbon emissions.
As one anti-coal advocate said, “It’s one world, folks, it goes round and round. We shouldn’t be helping carbon emissions anywhere in the world. It will come back to bite us.”
Other opponents of the coal terminals compared the DEQ’s bureaucrats to Adolph Eichmann, the Nazi coward who hid behind his desk job while planning the train routes during “the Final Solution.” The bureaucrats can sink into their banal lives, half-comfortable in their flexy-officechairs, tinkering with numbers and people as though they were interchangeable.
A few people also spoke in favor of coal trains, with the weirdest being the Mayor of Clatskanie, who insisted, “They’re going to donate a percentage of coal to our schools. They’re trying to be good community partners.”
She was probably just doing her job when she said that.
A Peoples Hearing was held outside of the Convention Center, and citizens frustrated with the DEQ would leave the hearing, declaring their intention to testify at the Peoples Hearing about the terrible public process inside. As kids played songs, the Peoples Hearing gave vent to complaints about the format of the DEQ’s hearing.
At a table at the front of the room, a single speaker faced a DEQ bureaucrat with a microphone infront of their face and a screen with a timer in full view. The speaker was forced to sit with their back to the audience, with the only interaction came when the employee held a card infront of the speaker to hurry them along. The event was heavily policed, and it was made clear that any breach in the sterile environment would lead to expulsion. Each speaker had to sign in, which is relatively unprecedented, and many speakers were not able to speak (possibly due to corporate tampering—paying people to sign in and not speak, etc.).
After 12 hours, the hearing gave out, but activists hadn’t had enough. 150 protestors rallied outside the hearing hoisting signs against coal trains and raising their voices into the twilight.
Outside, people lounged, raised their voices, participated with the audience, and engaged in social interaction.
Big shout out to the Power Past Coal Coalition, which helped organize for the event.
Groups also present were 350.org and Rising Tide who encouraged folks to attend the Summer Heat Columbia River Climate Action on July 27th.