Regional environmentalists have landed a high-profile voice in their fight against coal terminals in the Pacific Northwest: Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
At noon Monday, May 7, Kennedy, a longtime clean energy advocate, will headline a rally at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland to protest proposed coal export terminals in Oregon and Washington, including one in Longview and two at Port Westward near Clatskanie.
Kennedy is the president of the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance, the umbrella organization of about 150 clean-water groups worldwide, including Hood River-based Columbia Riverkeeper.
"The nation's eyes are on Washington and Oregon right now as we're faced with a choice to traffic dirty coal or commit to clean energy. Mr. Kennedy will help draw even more attention to this issue," Brett VandenHeuvel, Columbia Riverkeeper executive director, said in a written statement.
In recent months, proposals have popped up to build coal terminals in Longview, Port Westward near Clatskanie, Bellingham, Coos Bay and Hoquiam. Coal companies are hoping to send coal from mines in Montana and Wyoming to emerging Asian markets.
In response, the EPA and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber have called for a comprehensive review about the effect of increased train traffic, coal dust and other environmental concerns related to coal terminals.
Millennium Bulk Terminals has proposed building a $600 million coal terminal at the former Reynolds Metals Co. aluminum smelter located on the Columbia west of Longview. The company plans to employ 135 full-time workers at full buildout, projected for 2019 or 2020.
Millennium is also helping the state develop a groundwater and soil cleanup plan for the site, which had been contaminated by aluminum smelting.
"I'm not sure a rally in Portland for a few hours will overshadow the progress we are making cleaning up the old Reynolds site and the commitment we've made to creating jobs. Millennium is making a significant investment in our community and we are proud of our plan to create hundreds of jobs in Cowlitz County," Millennium CEO Ken Miller said in a written statement.