The “Thin Green Line” is a term coined for the grassroots resistance of the Pacific Northwest to stop the massive export of fossil fuels from North America to Asian countries, and in general, to slow the climate-changing burning of fossil fuels. There are a mind boggling number of proposals for export facilities, pipelines and train transport along the west coast, as the fossil fuel industry races the growing human realization that our species is unlikely to survive unless we can stop putting so much carbon into the atmosphere.
From the proposed oil export terminal on the old Oakland Army Base, to the liquid natural gas pipeline proposal through Oregon, to the Unist’ot’en camp on tribal lands that blocks pipelines through central British Colombia, people all up the west coast of North America are active trying to stop fossil fuel export.
One strong stand is being made at Cherry Point, just north of Bellingham, WA on native Lummi tribal lands. There is a proposal there for a large coal export terminal that would that would receive nine mile-and-a-half long trains coming and going daily, carrying coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana. This coal would then be put on large ships that would navigate through the precious Salish Sea and on to Asian markets. The owners of the terminal, SSA Marine (49% owned by Goldman Sachs, and partnering with Peabody Energy) intends to export 54 million metric tons of coal annually.
There is great concern on many fronts to the proposal. First, the terminal expansion plan is on a significant cultural site and an ancestral burial ground of the first nations people of the Lummi tribe. The project also threatens an important Herring fishery and Salmon habitat. The Lummi have petitioned the Army Corp of Engineers to deny the coal terminal permit on treaty grounds that it will interfere with their treaty rights to livelihood.
Also there are the immediate health and environmental concerns of the pollution and dangers from the coal dust, the “surfactants” used to limit the dust, and the diesel exhaust. According to BNSF Railway website, these 15,000-ton trains will lose three percent of their load in transit or 1,780,000 short tons of coal dust spread annually from the Powder River Basin to the terminal. Add on the effects on all the communities of such extensive rail traffic blocking roads and emergency vehicles, noise pollution and loud train whistles, dangers of accidents, property value loss and added costs to municipalities. And furthermore, sending cheap fossil fuels abroad encourages local job loss, lessons our self reliance and incredibly damages the environment through extraction, transport and use.
And importantly the increased marine traffic through the environmentally sensitive Salish Sea would increase chance of accidents, oil spills and pollution that threatens this precious ecosystem and rare Orca whale habitat. Top it all off with the folly of continuing to extract and burn fossil fuels that are causing such dramatic climate changes and you have one hell of a bad idea!
This is a big deal. Activists, tribal members, and concerned folks are our chance at turning this around. And there have been successes. Arch Coal which was trying to put a big coal port in Longview WA, just declared bankruptcy, Obama finally denied the permit for the much protested against XL pipeline, the Northern Gateway pipeline seems to be fading from Enbridge’s plans in British Columbia and Shell stopped their plans to drill for oil in the remote arctic ocean. Just recently “The Delta 5”, five activists who blockaded an oil train near Seattle, have been been allowed to use the necessity defense in a historic climate change civil disobedience trial. “The Thin Green Line” of awakened citizens is what stands between the insane continuation of failed fossil fuel folly and the hopeful turning to alternative ways of being, necessary to protect life on earth. The time is now, before the machines of destruction get further built, to turn this around. It really is a life and death decision this generation must make. We know. Let’s turn it around. www.powerpastcoalorg/