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Earth Ministry rallies opposition to coal exports

More than 10,000 people have turned out in Oregon, Washington and Montana at 11 official hearings and three people’s hearings to testify and express solidarity with the movement to stop development of Oregon and Washington ports to ship coal from Montana and Wyoming to Asia.

Lee Anne Beres

LeeAnne Beres with faith community opponents to coal exports. Photo courtesy of Earth Ministry/WAIPL.

In Seattle, more than 150 Earth Ministry /Washington Interfaith Power & Light (WAIPL) members and other people of faith came, said LeeAnne Beres, executive director and member at Fauntleroy UCC.

About 30 religious leaders testified, each emphasizing this is a moral issue: “Our faith calls us to care for creation and love our neighbors.  Exporting coal goes against these values.”

Religious leaders also stood in solidarity with the Lummi Nation on whose sacred land the Cherry Point coal export terminal would be built.

“There was also a good faith community turnout at Spokane’s hearing,” she said.

There, 700 of 800 who came wore red, a symbol of opposition to coal mining, transport and exports.

Jessie Dye of Earth Ministry/WAIPL held three Faith Leader Breakfasts for Creation Care in Spokane, Bellingham and Seattle before the hearings in those cities, providing background information and training for clergy and lay leaders who wanted to testify.

“Trainings prepared faith leaders to speak from the heart on moral, health, environmental and economic issues at stake in the process,” LeeAnne said.

As of mid December, 225 religious leaders had signed on to Earth Ministry/WIPAL’s “no coal export” letter to the Commissioner of Public Lands, and signatures are still welcome.

Another 13 denominational executives and religious organization leaders signed a letter calling for a comprehensive review of the Port of Morrow project in Oregon.

LeeAnne said clergy and lay leaders may still sign the interfaith statement to stop coal exports. 

She hopes more UCC members will speak out to protect the health and livable conditions in the Northwest.  The goal is to have 250 religious leaders sign it.  The comment period lasts through Jan. 21.

The letter is at

“Big coal companies want to ship coal from Montana and Wyoming to Asia through coal export terminals that are proposed to be built,” she said.  “If that happens, mile-and-a-half long uncovered coal trains will disrupt communities across Washington, coal dust will pollute surrounding neighborhoods, and harbors and fishing grounds will be damaged.”

In addition, she said burning “dirty coal” in Asian power plants will poison air and water.  The pollution will blow back over the Pacific to give U.S. children asthma, disrupt the climate and acidify waters.

LeeAnne said coal companies say the choice is between jobs and a clean environment.

“In fact, coal produces fewer jobs than any other exports,” she said.  “Coal hasn’t been an economic boom for West Coast cities in the past. It will destroy more jobs than it will create.”

In 2011, with the help of the faith community, Earth Ministry/WAIPL passed a bill to end burning coal for power in Washington, and to invest in local economic development and a growing clean energy sector.

“People of faith will not allow coal companies to put profits before the best interests of our families and the world we leave our children,” LeeAnne said.  “We know we can work together to solve problems we face and leave a legacy of clean and healthy renewable energy for the next generation.”

For information, call 206-632-2426 or email


Coal trains would have impact in all along the route through five states

At a recent adult forum at Westminster UCC in Spokane, members Randy and Linda Crowe presented concerns about coal trains coming through Spokane from Wyoming and Montana enroute to West Coast ports.

Randy and Linda, recently retired from ministries at N-Sid-Sen and Veradale UCC, shared information they learned a Faith Leader Breakfast for Creation Care in Spokane.

“We are called into covenant with the whole creation and called to pray for healing the planet,” said Linda, quoting Carlos Correa, of the UCC Justice and Witness Ministries.  “As we consider coal trains coming through, what does it mean to be in covenant with God and caring for creation?”

They attended the Dec. 4 hearing in Spokane on broadening the scope of the environmental impact statement if a coal terminal is built at Cherry Point near Bellingham.

Randy said proponents want the focus limited to the immediate area of the terminal, rather than the 1,500 miles the coal will go through Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.  They also want to overlook the impact on Native Americans.

“The Corps of Engineers should consider the noise pollution, coal dust, diesel fumes and traffic congestion of having 60 more trains a day go through Spokane,” he said, even though just 13 will go to Cherry Point.

“Each terminal wants its impact considered separately, rather than considering the cumulative impact,” said Randy.

Spokane is a “choke point” for trains, which will go along the Columbia Gorge.

“I hope enough people attend hearings so the Army Corps of Engineers broadens the scope of the environmental impact statement,” he said.

Linda is grateful the Washington State Environmental Protection Act gives people the opportunity to have a say:  “We know from work with the Spokane Alliance the influence of showing up,” she said.  “It matters. I have contacted elected officials to let them know my concerns are motivated because I’m a person of faith.”


Copyright © December 2012 - Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ Conference News


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