Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, has introduced a legislative resolution (Assembly Joint Resolution 35), sponsored by the Renewable Energy Accountability Project, to prevent the toxic trade of dirty coal shipments from West Coast ports.

“West Coast ports are in danger of becoming the dumping ground for massive coal shipments to foreign destinations,” Williams said. “We must act now before we become complicit in a global climate crisis.”

The resolution (AJR 35) would urge Congress to enact legislation to restrict coal exports for electricity generation to any nation that fails to adopt regulations on the emissions of greenhouse gases or airborne hazardous air pollutants that are at least as restrictive as those adopted by the United States.

AJR 35 would further urge California Gov. Jerry Brown to inform the governors of Oregon and Washington of the significant health risks if large coal-export terminals and rail car coal transport expansions are licensed and permitted to operate near the coast of the Oregon and Washington.

“The Renewable Energy Accountability Project congratulates Assemblyman Williams for his courage and strong commitment to environmental protection,” REAP chair Jim Gonzalez said. “Just as the United States is taking action to control hazardous air pollution and a global warming emission from coal plants, Big Coal is engaging is a campaign to make the West Coast a colony for toxic coal shipments. Unless we prevent this exploitation of the West Coast, all the work to reduce global warming and prevent climate change will be in vain.”

The Consequences of the Toxic Coal Trade

Coal companies have targeted West Coast ports for massive expansion of the toxic coal trade. 

In addition to being the largest single cause of human-made global warming, the toxic trade in coal results in hazardous air pollution, mountain top removals, and the extrusion of coal dust from open rail cars, contaminating adjoin communities and waterways.

Coal exports from United States ports to Asia have risen by almost 240 percent from 3.8 million tons in 2009 to more than 13 million tons in 2010. Chinese coal use grew by 10.1 percent in 2010, while China’s global warming pollution rose by 10.4 percent to 8.33 billion tons. The United States was second, emitting 6.14 billion tons. In 2009, China consumed 48.2 percent of the world’s coal, slightly up from around 47 percent in 2009. 

On Dec. 11, 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopted rules restricting mercury and hazardous air pollutants that are known or suspected of causing cancer and other serious health effects.

On March 27, the EPA proposed a carbon pollution standard for new power plants. The proposed rule limits CO2 emissions from new fossil fuel plants to 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hour.

— James Joyce is a field representative of Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara.