Voices of Resistance

Marcela Gara News, perspectives

Washington State denied yet another critical permit for Millennium’s (MBT) proposed coal export terminal! The decision marks the third time the state gave the thumbs down to MBT’s scheme which would be the largest coal export terminal in North America and ship an estimated 44 million tons of coal per year by rail, posing significant risks to impacted communities, habitats, waterways, and the climate.

From the mines in Montana to the ports in Longview, Washington, people are leading us to victory against fossil fuels like coal exports. Here are some of their stories.

Bud and Mary Robertson, Highlands Neighborhood, Longview, WA

“We’ve been married for 34 years and moved to the Highlands Neighborhood 12 years ago to be closer to our kids. The coal export terminal threatens our way of life. I know the job situation is bad. People need work. People say it will bring jobs and of course I’m up for anything that brings jobs, but I’m not up for anything that pollutes the air, water or the land. We have to have that to live. My wife and I have COPD, and we don’t need anything like a coal terminal to help it along. I go outside and sit on the front porch every day with a cup of coffee and good fresh air. I don’t want coal dust threatening our way of life or our nice morning breeze”

Sydney Mallory, St. Helens Neighborhood, Longview, WA 

“I’ve lived in Longview my entire life. I grew up on the Old West Side but now live in St. Helens Neighborhood near the Highlands Neighborhood. I love my neighbors and my home.  I’m speaking out against Millennium coal export project because the pollutants that would come from the terminal are dangerous. Our health,  the fish, and the Columbia River are at stake.

Making our voices heard is essential to protecting our planet. I want to speak out for everything that can’t speak for themselves, like the land, animals, and trees, but especially the water.

The very idea of a coal terminal in my backyard is sad, especially for the people who cannot afford to move out of the neighborhood. I worry about any accident or derailment. I worry about my kids and my grandkids. We have the technology to bring more environmentally friendly projects to Longview. That is the future I hope to our community.”

Cindy Reeves, Highlands Neighborhood, Longview, WA  

Cindy Reeves“I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 18 years where we consider each other family.  That’s why I’d fight to protect my pets, my neighbors, the air, the water, my vegetables, and my fruit trees. I love the community and our beautiful environment.

My fiancee passed away in April of this year, and I promised I would speak out for him. He grew up in Oklahoma where the coal trains would come through, and it was black as the ace of spades. The pollution from the proposed terminal would force us out of our homes. The air is free, and the water is our lifeblood, and I cannot see coal coming through to ruin it. I won’t let it happen. ”

Mark Fix, Tongue River rancher/irrigator and past chair of Northern Plains Resource Council, Montana 

“Coal exports are personal to me.  A company originally behind the proposed Longview coal port wanted to condemn part of my ranch, and my neighbors’ ranches, to build a new railroad to ship coal to the port and then to Asia. It would have industrialized a pristine agricultural valley, spread wildfires, cut cattle off from water, and made ranching a lot less viable.

On top of that, in southeastern Montana, coal seams are aquifers. More mining for export would further disrupt our watersheds and pollute the rivers and streams we rely on. If we don’t have water, we don’t have anything.”

Rev. John Boonstra and Rev. Vicky Stifter, Hood River 

“We moved to the Gorge eleven years ago to pastor congregations in Hood River and White Salmon. We are parents of two daughters who have shared our experience of witnessing escalating coal trains that service a dying industry.  With each passing train, we recognize that the greed of Big Coal reveals a total disregard for the well-being of our community and the integrity of our environment.  We are opposed to the Longview Coal Terminal because it would exchange our future for the short-term profits of a few.  We do not need coal as an energy source, as a base for jobs, or as a means for economic growth.  We know that a new way of sustainable living is possible!  Coal dependency is morally and economically bankrupt.  We can do better!”

The Rt. Rev. Gregory Rickel

Rev. Gregory Rickel “As Bishop of the Diocese of Olympia (the Episcopal Church in Western Washington) for the past 10 years, I have worked with Earth Ministry and parishes across the region to raise the moral voice of concern about coal export.

Many Episcopalians believe that God calls us to be stewards of Earth’s diverse community of life. Coal terminals, like the one proposed in Longview, do not promote the conservation of God’s creation and threaten the health, sanctity, and livelihood of our communities and future generations.

Faith compels us to be good stewards of natural resources, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to speak up for justice. That’s why people of faith are speaking out against coal in Longview. The recent permit denials support our contention that this project is not sustainable, and our faith calls us to work for cleaner, safer, and more earth-friendly modes of fuel. I pray we move beyond coal and move into the clean energy future that aligns with our shared values.”

Edwin Wanji, Founder and Owner, Sphere Solar

“As a kid, I had a calculator with a solar panel charger.

My school had a diesel generator that only operated during certain hours. When power would go off, we had batteries for flashlights. The trick was, you could set them out in the sun and they could give you 15 minutes of light when you turned them back on. I remember when you’d cover the solar panel on the calculator, it would dim out, and when it was light, it would start working. I started to pull them out to figure out if I could charge these batteries [with the solar panels]. That was first how I became interested.

Years after charging batteries with solar panels, I was able to get a car battery and a small solar panel. I started hooking up flashlight bulbs to the car battery. But I didn’t know how voltage worked, so I used to blow up the bulbs.

I’ve been in renewable energy for 5 years now, but my passion for sustainable energy all goes back to the roots, the homeland, where electricity was scarce and very expensive. Mostly my drive came from the struggle of having electricity flowing and having mom say, “hey, turn that off. We can’t afford that,” or having steady power outages all the time.

I remember one thing really well – when I visited my grandma I remember thinking man, it’s really smoky. My eyes were tearing up. My grandma’s kitchen always had the cooking going, which meant burning charcoal and a kerosene lamp. Good food, but man it hurt to be in there, you were just constantly tearing up from the fumes – not good from a public health perspective, as it doesn’t take much to illuminate a light bulb.

It started with wanting to really get clean energy in Kenya, I still have family there.

I was working for the City. I left, got a job installing. But I had a different vision for it, which was one, to make solar more accessible to the average person and two, to be able to go out and train people on the application. I thought that would be more empowering and have a larger impact. I’m still working towards that every day. Our company is going on our third year.

The way I look at it, ideally, we should be set up to do more for communities who don’t yet have access to affordable energy. Every winter, we take on such a project somewhere, this year we’ll be back in Haiti. We train people on the installs and showcase how doable it is.

Which reminds me of when I met a logger named Rick when I was traveling out to Westport and as we got to talking rigs, he told me about his job. I was really intrigued by what he did. When I told him about solar he told me it wouldn’t work here because of the clouds. It gave me a chance to explain how amazingly well it would work on his property. Starting April through September we have anything between 8-12 hours of daylight. So I was trying to explain to Rick how you’re generating way more energy than you’re consuming, so you’re feeding that energy back into the grid. meaning, it’s going to the next nearest need. So it could be your neighbor’s house, or even farther out. And I showed him a video of the meter spinning back and how, big picture, how much less we need to pull in from the coal mine. We are self-generating.

You cannot come up with a reason why we need to expand a coal mine or hydro dams. I was shocked that he went from, is this really going to work? to making a friend and getting a tour of the logging mill, which was kind of cool to see.

I’ve realized that with my community up here, or especially those with lower incomes, renewable energy is a topic that’s not discussed as an option, and it needs to be. Maybe communities out there [on the coast] are that way too. They have problems out there, too, so clean energy should and can be more accessible. I believe the clean energy is necessary to preserve our future. I hope we inspire somebody to look into clean energy versus [coal] in Longview.”