The Grand Portage Reservation is at the northeastern tip of Minnesota. The Air Quality Program has many ongoing projects in order to maintain healthy indoor and outdoor air. These projects include monitoring for regional haze and particulate matter, indoor air quality, invasive plant removal, public outreach, environmental education, alternative energy, and climate change.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Western Tribes Defend Sacred Sites Against Coal Export Plan

Photo: Paul Anderson for The New York Times

Chuck Boyer operated a skiff that brought people from their fishing boats to shore to watch speeches during a protest against the building of North America's largest coal terminal at Cherry Point, Wash.

Tribes in the Pacific Northwest have allied with environmental groups to oppose a plan to build six coal export terminals along the west coast. The coal would then be transported to the booming markets of Asia where industrial air pollution is far less regulated and air regularly reaches unhealthy levels of pollutants. The proposed plan would disrupt traditional fishing sites as well as disturbing numerous sacred sites according to tribal leaders and elders.

Why should this concern us thousands of miles away?

Because air pollution does not respect national boundaries and already pollution from China reaches the air above us where it can come back to earth in rain and snow to contaminate our lands and waters. This and the fact that coal is a major source of carbon dioxide emissions that are increasing global temperatures to ominous levels are enough reasons to oppose this new coal export capacity. Despite what some political ads say, the main reason coal production has fallen so drastically in the US is not overzealous government regulation but competition from suddenly cheap and abundant natural gas. Coal companies are just trying to shift their smoky product to another market so they can continue to remove mountaintops at their leisure. The world economy needs to transition away from the unsustainable dependence on fossil fuels and the sooner we realize that burning coal is nineteenth century technology unfit for a twenty-first world the sooner we can transition to more sustainable sources of energy. Coal is also a significant source of mercury which can find its way up the food chain through a process called bioaccumulation. This has led to alarmingly high mercury levels among First Nation people in arctic Canada.

Coal is a bad deal for all involved and the government needs to do more to assist families whose livelihoods depend on coal to transition away from it because eventually the government will realize that the price of coal energy is far higher for the planet than just the cost of a ton of coal.

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