Sierra Club
Sierra Club Press Release

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Contact: Crystal Gartner, 509.209.2395, 509.850.7332 (cell),
Krista Collard, 415.977.5619614.622.9109 (cell),



Power Past Coal Launches First Television Ad Warning of Threats from Coal Export
Commercial hits prime time in Eastern Washington

Spokane, WA- Today, the grassroots group made up of thousands of residents opposing dangerous coal exports, released its first television commercial demonstrating the serious risks facing local Northwest families. Highlighting the deadly threat of delayed emergency response times, the new ad spells out just one of several threats facing communities across the region. Places like Spokane, Spokane Valley, and Cheney in Eastern Washington are facing 60 new coal trains daily, which could cut off emergency responders for up to 15 minutes each. 

Julie Strandquist, a Registered Nurse in Spokane, says that delayed emergency response times are just one of many concerns that keep her up at night. "We're looking at plans for nearly 150 million tons of coal to be shipped through our town each day. That means mile and a half long coal trains clogging up traffic day and night--that isn't just a nuisance, it could be downright deadly," she says. "We all know that in times of an emergency, every second counts. It's frightening to think that our ambulances and fire trucks could be sitting idle for 15 minutes while a coal train passes through town to make its way to the coast."

A rail report released in July by the Western Organization of Resource Councils entitled Heavy Traffic Ahead highlights the incredible traffic delays Northwest communities are bound to face if the slated 150 million tons of coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming is allowed to be hauled to the West Coast to be shipped to Asia. 

Nearly 300 health professionals, 88 faith leaders, and 400 local businesses (mostly from smaller rail line communities) have either voiced their concerns or come out against coal export off the West Coast. Members of the Power Past Coal coalition and nearly 100 public officials have called on the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a full evaluation of all five of the proposals. If conducted properly, the evaluation would include a full review of all coal export impacts through the Northwest, from mine to rail and from port to plant, as well as a full public hearing process.

"Even if only one of these five proposals is able to move forward, our families in Spokane, Spokane Valley, and all along the rail line will still be forced to take on all of the risks that come along with coal export, without receiving any of the benefits. That's unsafe and unfair," said Strandquist. "Communities across the region deserve a seat at the table, and that's why we're demanding a full review by the Army Corps of Engineers," she added. 

In addition to longer wait times at rail crossing for emergency responders, health professionals have also raised concerns about health impacts to the possible increase from coal-train traffic, especially exposure to more diesel exhaust, coal dust, and rail accidents.  So far this summer there have been a dozen coal-train derailments across the country, including one in Washington State in early July. Two of the accidents resulted in deaths and all of them resulted in tie-ups and spilled coal.

For more information about the campaign to protect families from dangerous coal export, watch the new commercial here, and visit



POWER PAST COAL is an alliance of health, environmental, clean-energy, faith and community groups working to stop coal export off the West Coast.