NPR’s The Two-Way shared this stunning satellite image showing heavy smog covering eastern China. It was taken Tuesday by NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite.
The Two-Way points to a National Geographic report attributing the pollution to China’s heavy use of coal.
In a new report about energy consumption trends, environmental research group World Watch Institute notes a big milestone in China’s coal use:
Coal consumption, however, was dominated by China, which in 2012 for the first time accounted for more than half of the world’s coal use.
As you probably know, we’ve been following the path of proposals to transport Powder River Basin coal through our region by rail and barge to terminals in Oregon and Washington and then on to Asia.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is one of the agencies conducting reviews on the proposed projects. They testified in June that it will not consider global impacts of the proposals:
“The appropriate application of our regulations have led us to the conclusion that the effects of the burning of the coal in Asia or wherever it may be is too far removed from our action to be considered as an indirect effect or a cumulative effect of our action itself,” said Jennifer Moyer from the Corps.
Then in July, Washington’s Department of Ecology and the Corps announced that it would consider impacts all along the proposed route from the Powder River Basin mines to coal-burning plants in Asia for the biggest of the proposed projects, the Gateway Pacific Terminal near Bellingham, Wash. 125,000 public comments on the scope of the review, were a factor in Ecology’s decision for a broad review.
In September, Army Corps and Ecology decided to go separate ways on the review process for the Millennium Bulk Terminal proposal on the Washington side of the Columbia River, with the Corps considering a much more limited scope and Ecology considering the same broad impact as the Gateway Pacific review. The public comment period for the scoping of this proposal is wrapping up soon, but they’ve already received over 50,000 comments.
So, the process for considering coal exports here has already been controversial and messy. As images and reports like these about coal related pollution in China and other Asian countries, it will be interesting to see how those impacts play out in the review of the the Northwest coal export proposals.
— Toni Tabora-Roberts
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