Robert F Kennedy Jr. Rallies Anti-Coal in Portland Oregon
Photo Credit: Alex Milan Tracy via alexmilantracy.com
Monday May 8th was a particularly sunny afternoon downtown Portland Oregon. There was a little more action bustling in Pioneer Square than usual and it wasn’t because of the bistros and great shopping. An anti-coal rally had gathered concerned citizens and wandering bystanders to listen to the horrors of what could become of their town. Several speakers took the stage but perhaps the most captivating was that of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a big-league environmental attorney and activist (and of course nephew of the great President JFK.)
The magnetic energy from the crowd was protesting the proposal that would allow coal to be transported from Montana and Wyoming through the Northwestern riverfronts like the Columbia River and then exported to China. Uncovered trains filled with coal would sweep through Northern Portland spewing coal dust along the tracks and ultimately polluting “Portlandians” air. A rep from Oregon’s Physicians for Social Responsibility gave a long informative speech on the dangers of coal pollution and what it could mean for the health of the native city dwellers. Some of the hazards include asthma, birth defects, emphysema, mercury poisoning, and cancer.
Kennedy knew just the right things to say since he has been fighting the coal battle in West Virginia for 30 years. He illustrated the impacts that coal has had on people’s health, on its economics and democracy. “Coal will undermine everything that you love,” said Kennedy. “I’ve seen what it’s done to small Appalachian towns. Its ruined democracy, corrupted politicians and literally drove people out of town. Do not let it corrupt this community. You are at the front lines of this battle.” As he continued to fire up supporters, he noted that while the U.S. believes that it can export the environmental problems attached to coal, they will find it would ultimately wash up on Pacific Ocean shores causing acidification from use in Asia.
“Anybody who touches coal gets poisoned by it,” said Kennedy, president of the environmental advocacy group Waterkeeper Alliance. “You don’t just get sick. It poisons democracy, it poisons communities, it poisons values.”
Many proposals for Pacific Northwest coal terminals have been floating around which led Governor John Kitzhaber to ask for a full comprehensive environmental review about one month ago due to his concerns on health, economics and pollution. However, Washington State is not looking very opposed to the idea since they applied for permits to become one of the largest coal exporters in the country. Millennium Bulk Terminals, a river port in Washington, seems eager for jobs in Cowlitz County and feels that this is the best avenue to take saying “we are proud of our plan.”
But Kennedy argued that the jobs that would arise from these ports would be minimal and that there are much better outlets for job creation. He went on to say that, a 2.7-gigawatt solar thermal power plant developing in Southern California will take three years to build while a coal plant would take upwards to 10. He added, “It will run about $3 billion per gigawatt, the same cost as a coal plant.”
Portland is a great city known for its clean streets, beautiful landscapes, and eccentricity. Running coal through it would cause some dirty aftermath that could potentially change the town forever. “It’s going to end up leaving Portland with a legacy of pollution, poison and corruption,” Kennedy said.
I’m confident that native Portland residents will fight hard to keep Portland weird and certainly not polluted.
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