New Orleans, La. – Members of the Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition (CGCC) Friday called on President Obama to take a closer look at his call for increased exports, as overseas export of coal and petroleum products contradicts his public commitment to take strong measures to address climate change.
The president is expected to call for increased exports as means of stimulating the economy during his trip to the Port of New Orleans today. A large percentage of Louisiana’s $62.9 billion in export earnings derive from sales of coal and petroleum products.
“President Obama just issued an executive order on climate change, and now he's here promoting coal exports to China,” said Steve Murchie of Gulf Restoration Network (GRN). “That's like going to the gym and then smoking a pack of cigarettes.”
The coalition, which includes Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), Sierra Club, Public Citizen, GRN and Plaquemines Residents for Environmental Integrity (PREI), has launched a campaign to halt the coal industry’s plans to increase coal and petroleum coke exports out of the Gulf Coast by more than 100 million tons, which could add as much as 286 million tons of climate-changing greenhouse gases to the atmosphere each year.
Louisiana suffers disproportionately with the fallout of extreme weather and sea-level rise brought about by climate disruption, which compound existing problems of flood-prone coastal areas and disappearing wetlands. These issues put Louisiana’s residents and industry at risk. In 2012 Hurricane Isaac flooded communities and coal terminals in the Plaquemines Parish area, sending coal-contaminated water into coastal wetlands and homes.
Three coalition groups, GRN, Sierra Club and LEAN, last week joined forces with Louisiana residents to file a lawsuit against the state Department of Natural Resources’s (DNR) illegal approval of a coastal use permit for construction of the proposed RAM coal export facility in the Ironton area outside of New Orleans in Plaquemines Parish.
The terminal would not only increase greenhouse gas emissions; it would also add coal dust pollution in a region where residents already suffer with unhealthy air.
"Out-of-state coal companies get to export their dirty coal overseas and we get stuck with the pollution,” said Cornell Battle, a resident of Ironton, a small and historic town located near two existing coal terminals and several new proposed ones.
“Why would we stand for that?” he asked. “We love our community, and we invite the President to come down here and see firsthand the true impacts of coal exports."
The lawsuit filed by residents and environmental organizations argues that DNR did not consider potential alternative sites or fully weigh the negative environmental and public health impacts of the proposal against its questionable economic benefits. The RAM terminal would be built adjacent to the Myrtle Grove Medium Diversion, a $300 million project that is instrumental to the state’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan to create a more sustainable coast.
"Louisiana is being used as a dumping ground for exporting dirty coal to foreign nations,” said Devin Martin, a conservation coordinator for Sierra Club. “Louisiana is too fragile and risky an environment for giant, open piles of coal. We really have nothing to gain here. This is a bad deal for our local economy and for the global environment.”
The Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition (CleanGulfCommerceCoalition.org) is a multi-state coalition of individuals and groups working to stop the construction of new terminals, prevent the expansion of coal exports in the Gulf, and address ongoing pollution at existing terminals. The Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition includes Air Alliance Houston, Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), Public Citizen Texas, Sierra Club, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS), and Texas Organizing Project (TOP).