If the proposed coal export terminals in the Northwest went forward, they would significantly increase the amount of coal mined for export. Already the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana is the single largest source of coal in the United States. Meeting export goals would likely require coal companies to open brand new areas of mining and expand existing coal mining operations.
Coal mining causes significant air pollution, largely created by blasting, drilling, collecting, hauling and moving heavy machinery. Additional mining would increase these air pollutants in the coal fields. New mines would increase pollution in already impacted communities, put more communities at risk, and industrialize thousands of acres of agricultural lands and wildlife habitat.
Coal mining also pollutes the water supply. Coalbeds in the Powder River Basin serve as aquifers for the region. Strip mining severs and destroys these aquifers, which are critical sources of groundwater for agriculture and wildlife. Reclaiming the lands and water impacted by coal mining has to date been largely unsuccessful.