Friday, September 20, 2013

Speaking Out for Creation Care at the Longview Coal Export Hearing

Written by Jessica Zimmerle
Outreach Coordinator for Earth Ministry

Dear friends,

People are out in full force for the public comment period that is underway for the proposed coal export terminal that would ship 44 million tons of coal a year at Longview, Washington. For those you who followed last year's Cherry Point hearings, this process may invoke a sense of déjà vu; hopefully the outcome will do same and result in an environmental impact statement that includes a broad scope.

Tuesday was the first of 5 public hearings for the Longview terminal that provide the public with a chance to voice concerns about coal export, an influential action that will determine to what extent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Ecology will assess the environmental impact of the project. This hearing was especially significant as it was located in Longview itself, a industrial area where many residents are desperate for employment. However, Tuesday's crowd both verbally and visually illustrated that 135 jobs are not enough to justify the environmental degradation and health risks for their community.

It was quite a sight to behold as the room filled as a sea of red - approximately 80% of the 1800 people present wore the color to show opposition to the coal plant. Emotions and tensions were high as Longview residents expressed concerns about their health and well-being while out-of-town visitors emphasized that coal export is both a regional and global issue.
Jessie Dye testifying on behalf of the Faith Community
Earth Ministry and WAIPL were present along with other representation from the faith community to address that coal export is unacceptable from the perspective of faith-based values. Personally, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take a stand for responsible creation care. I would like to share what I said with you all:
My name is Jessica Zimmerle and I am a recent graduate of Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma where I received my degree in Environmental Studies and Biology.

My education has taught me to focus on the interconnectedness of all components of our environment. This is why I am here, from out of town, to advocate for a broad review of this terminal because the negative effects of this project will be inherently wide-ranging beyond the borders of Longview. In order for the EIS to effectively assess this proposal, it must be long-term and all-encompassing – I am especially concerned about the impacts of ocean acidification and the introduction of ballast water to marine ecosystems as well as the leaching of coal dust and chemicals into the 15,000 acres of wetlands along the route.

I am also a person of faith and I believe that we must take a stand for all marginalized people and fight for environmental justice. I understand that this terminal may provide a few much-needed jobs, yet coal provides the fewest jobs per square area of deep water port than any other commodity. Can we allow 135 jobs to justify the suffering of all the people that would be in constant contact with debilitating risks like asthma and cancer?

I am not originally from this area but I was drawn here because of Washington’s dedication to sustainability and renewable energy. Allowing coal export would be like saying, I won’t do drugs, but I will deal them. Ideally, I would like to raise my family here, but I might have to reconsider if one of the biggest contributors to climate change would be in my neighborhood and would be a threat to the health of my children.
The future of our environment is already in dire jeopardy and the burden will inevitably fall on my generation to mitigate the impacts of the decisions you make now. Please consider the wide-ranging negative implications of this project for the health of our ecosystems, which must be sustainably managed to support the well being of future generations.
Karin and I on stage at the Pre-Hearing Rally
The hearing was an excellent experience and I highly recommend that you attend one of the remaining hearings if you are able, which will be held in Spokane, Pasco, Vancouver, and Tacoma. (Please click here for more information!) Your verbal testimony, written comments, and presence (in RED) at coal export hearings are an extremely powerful way to demonstrate that the faith community is beyond coal!

If you are unable to attend a hearing, you can submit written comments here, all form of comments will all be equally taken into consideration!

In peace,

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