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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Momenta film talks coal train crisis

To spark conversation regarding the local impact of the coal train in Bellingham, the Students for Renewable Energy screened the film “Momenta” in Miller Hall on Thursday, Jan. 21.

The film presented how the Powder River Basin, located in southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming, is seeing a slow decline in coal. This decline has caused the American coal industry to orchestrate plans to extract billions of tons of coal and ship it to expanding Asian markets, according to the film.

The coal must first move overseas by train, traveling along the coast. After the coast, the coal is shipped via deep-water ports in both Washington and Oregon, according to the film.

By the time it reaches the coast, each coal train will lose up to 31 tons of coal and coal dust during transit, leaving particles in many cities  including Bellingham during its trip, according to the film.

Eddy Ury, a Western alumnus, works with the Students for Renewable Energy as well as the Resources for Sustainable Communities and the Clean Energy Program. He said coal exports are affecting people locally and nationally.

“The struggle over coal exports at Cherry Point is one of the biggest battles in the world, environmentally, in terms of indigenous rights and in rights of sovereign first nations,” Ury said. “It’s something that’s happening right in the community we’re living in.”

The best way to get involved in the conversation is for people to show up to local events and vocalize their concerns, Ury said.

Junior Shelby Kremenich, a member of Students for Renewable Energy, said the club decided to put on the event because they wanted to start conversation about the local impacts of the coal train.

“By showing the movie you can start the coal-train talks,” Kremenich said. “You can talk about all the local issues that are happening.

Changes are already being put forth in Bellingham, Kremenich said. The Lummi Nation has voiced a request to stop all exports of coal and oil from Cherry Point, she said.

Sophomore Summer Long said she attended the event to learn more about how she can help the environment and the issues facing the Pacific Northwest.

The most important thing is to spread the word about the coal act, Long said.

Kremenich encourages all interested in voicing concerns about the opposition of increasing coal traffic to go to the public hearing in Bellingham at the County Council chambers on Tuesday, Jan. 26 at 6:30 p.m.  

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