New Orleans Recently meeting with environmental organizers and researchers at an annual strategy conference in New York City, I heard one report after another about proposed coal terminals on the West Coast that were being abandoned as demand from China decreases and its own growing environmental awareness around climate increases. The prospects for coal fired production of any sort are plunging worldwide according to one Wall Street mega-dome after another. All of which surprised me to hear that there continued to be an aggressive proposal to build a new coal shipping terminal on the lower Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish below New Orleans to ship the stuff through the Gulf of Mexico.
And that led me recently to talk to Grace Morris, a senior organizer with the Gulf Restoration Network on Wade’s World. The GRN has a wide reach ranging from Texas to Florida along the entire Gulf Coast so they have been on this fight for years along with other partners nationally from the Sierra Club and Public Citizen, and locally with LEAN, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, and not surprisingly from many people living around Myrtle Grove and Ironton along the River who are literally sick of how much coal dust they are already trying to survive.
The backstory is that several years ago RAM Terminals proposed building a coal terminal to store coal for Armstrong Coal Company in Kentucky. According to reports, Armstrong planned to barge its coal down there and then have it shipped from there, largely for European markets most now believe.Hit Google for Armstrong Coal and make sure you are sitting down when you do it, because it’s frightening stuff when the top listings include the fact that they are being investigated for misreporting dust levels in their mines by the EPA, being sued for spying on their miners by their workers, and closing mines like the one at Lewis Creek in Ohio County, Kentucky.Any reader of the any financial page these days knows that of more than twenty coal companies in the US there are only about five making money, and most are now losing their shirt. What is Armstrong thinking? Is this some kind of corporate suicide mission?
Morris told us that there were already two coal terminals in the same Myrtle Grove/Ironton area, and that now both of them are operating at about 50% capacity. Furthermore because of the slackening demand, coal is of course piling up and people all along the wind stream along the River are reporting health and breathing problems and of course the usual damage that coal dust accumulation causes to cars and homes. What in the world? Clearly we need this new terminal like we need a hole in the head.
Luckily the community and even the State of Louisiana may save Armstrong and RAM Terminals from themselves. Morris said that recently the state ordered a public hearing after persistent demands from residents and environmental groups which is now scheduled. There is also movement around requiring a more comprehensive environmental impact statement. If we can slow this project down, the economy and common sense may come together to stop this crazy project before it becomes another disaster along the Gulf Coast. It’s worth looking for their petition on line and adding your name.