I’m Supporting the Moratorium on Coal Leases
When I ran for State Representative in 2012, I walked downtown Auburn neighborhoods with a petition calling on Washington State leaders to deny permitting of coal export terminals. The folks who signed the petition agreed that increased coal train traffic through our city was bad our health, bad for our economy and bad for our quality of life. In the years since, one coal terminal proposal after another has been rejected, due in large part to the determined opposition of regular folks like the ones who signed my petition.
But coal trains can still be seen on an almost daily basis in the Auburn train yard. The U.S. still gets about a third of its power (down from around half a decade ago) from coal-fired power plants, and we’re still shipping millions of tons of coal to Asia.
So where does all that coal come from?
Much of it (41% according to a report from the Interior Department) comes from public lands, land owned by taxpayers like you and me. The coal companies pay fees and royalties, but are we getting a fair price? Taxpayers for Common Sense says no, and the National Resource Defense Council estimates we may have been cheated by over $30 billion over the last 30 years. Bring in the social cost of burning fossil fuels anywhere in the world, the damage to human health, rising food costs from unproductive fields, and property damage from extreme weather events, and the evidence is clear: the American people are getting a raw deal for allowing coal companies to extract our natural resources.
That’s why I’ll be testifying at a hearing in Seattle in support of the Obama Administration’s moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands. Detractors of this plan claim the coal industry makes vital contributions to our economy, but as we have seen, that argument just doesn’t add up. Job growth in the renewable energy sector is on the way up (the U.S. solar industry added some 35,000 jobs in 2015 alone), and increasingly power generated through solar and wind costs no more than artificially “cheap” fossil fuels (as subsidized by you and me), so we won’t be placing any financial burden on the household incomes of American rate payers by accelerating the transition to cleaner ways to power our lives and homes.
Meanwhile coal companies are declaring bankruptcy, and their share prices are at rock bottom (no pun intended). So let’s face it. Fossil fuels are a bad investment. I’m going to put my money into building a greener, more hopeful future. See you at the hearing!
The hearing on the Federal Coal Leasing Program will be on June 21, 2016 at the Sheraton Seattle Downtown (1400 6th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101). Doors open for speaker registration at 8:00 a.m. and the meeting itself will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Brian L. Gunn is a political activist living in Auburn. He is Chair of the Washington State Progressive Caucus as well as State Committeeman for the 31st Legislative District Democrats. He can be reached at email@example.com.