Montana Youth Call for a Weekend of Action Against Coal Exports

Note: yesterday a group of youth activists at the University of Montana (including myself) drafted a call for a weekend of action to protect communities from the coal exports industry.  Coal export projects may well be the largest single threat to the planet right now; and those of us in the heart of coal country need all the help we can get to win this fight. Please see below for the official call to action.

Call for a Weekend of Action to Stop Coal Exports

We, youth climate activists at the University of Montana, are calling for a regional weekend of action to protect the greater Northwest from coal exports.  The action will coincide with the weekend of Rocky Mountain Power Shift, February 17th-19th.  That weekend, hundreds of youth climate activists will converge on the University of Montana campus to exchange success stories, hear from movement leaders, learn from each other, and take action to promote solutions to climate change.

On Sunday, Feb 19th, we will march through downtown Missoula to protest an increase in coal exports (this action is not officially endorsed by Power Shift in any way).  We will draw attention to key politicians and industries who are financing and pushing coal export proposals.

If we can show that people across the greater Northwest region are concerned about this issue, we will dramatically increase our chances of success.  We are asking you to organize an action in your community on the weekend of Feb 18th, in solidarity with this region-wide effort.

If coal exports increase, it will further jeopardize the health of communities along the rail line, from eastern Montana to the West Coast.  Coal trains are a source of toxic coal dust and diesel fumes, noise pollution, and traffic congestion.  Energy companies plant to ship Montana coal to China and nearby countries, where it will be burned and contribute to climate change and global mercury pollution.

We appreciate any support you can give us in the fight against increased coal exports.  You can take action in your hometown by leading a march, rallying on a street corner, holding a teach-in, lobbying elected officials, or coming up with some other type of action….get creative!

Here in Montana, we are organizing in the heart of coal country.  However, this issue affects all of us.  To make progress toward the goal of stopping exports and protecting our communities, we need your help.  Let us know if you can hold an action the weekend of February 18th, by filling out the form at this link.  Thanks for anything you can do, and let’s work together to bring about a cleaner, brighter future!

Blue Skies & Coal Don’t Mix Campaign at the University of Montana

10 Responses to “Montana Youth Call for a Weekend of Action Against Coal Exports”

  1. 1 Jasmine Dec 13th, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Any Portland groups interested in collaborating on this? Email and let’s start planning!

  2. 2 Wes Lomax Dec 13th, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Wow. So freight trains don’t produce diesel fumes? What about trucks on the highway? Do they produce the fumes?

    Noise? The interstate running through our town makes highway noise 24/7.

    Traffic congestion? Trains have been around longer than you have have, little boy! In fact, there are less train operationg now than there were 30 years ago. And the locomotives powering the current trains, emit fewer emissions than previous locomotives.

  3. 3 nickengelfried Dec 13th, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Hi Wes,

    Yes, freight trains produce diesel fumes. That of course is part of my point, as an increase in coal freight through towns affected by coal export proposals will increase diesel pollution. What your point is, exactly, remains a little unclear to me. And of course trucks produce diesel fumes too; that’s another problem I’d like to see addressed, but I’ll save it for another blog post.

    Clearly you haven’t spent much time near the rail yard in Missoula lately. If you had, you would understand that the noise from coupling trains is on a whole new level of magnitude above noise pollution from the highway. In addition, it’s closer to more residential properties.

    Finally, coal trains have indeed been around longer than I have. Again, I’m not sure what your point is. I can think of many things that have been around longer than me, which I’d like to see done away with (nuclear weapons and the typhoid virus come to mind). Today’s trains are somewhat more efficient than the ones we had 30 year ago – a good thing, too. That still doesn’t make me happy about having hundreds more uncovered coal cars pass through Missoula everyday.

    Sorry to say, but it seems like you need to work on your argument a little more. You haven’t even addressed the impact that exporting coal would have on climate change. If you have a good argument for why increasing coal train traffic makes sense, I haven’t seen it yet.

  4. 4 Robert Dec 14th, 2011 at 1:51 am

    So, you want China to continue burning their more polluting coal, rather than using our low sulphur coal that produces thousnads of jobs for Americans, secondary jobs, tax revenues, and all the other financial benefits? And this doesn’t even begin to count the balancing effect to our trade deficit to a country that makes a lot of stuff sold in American stores. Face it, China will burn coal until Hell freezes over. Why not supply them with cleaner coal and help America in the process.

    I invite you and all your eco friends to cut off your utilities, stop using electricity, gas, water, sewers, and stay off the roads. Bive away your cell phones and computers. Stay out of the super markets, & stores of all kinds. Haul you butts out into the woods with no manufactured goods, and lets see just how long you survive. Even your excrements are pollution. You want the good life, but oppose what it takes to have that life. Cake, eat it too. One or the other my friend.

  5. 5 nickengelfried Dec 15th, 2011 at 2:04 am

    Hi Robert,

    Please try not to get so worked up – there’s really no need to be so defensive. Coal from the Powder River Basin has a marginally smaller sulfur content than Chinese coal; but you also have to burn more of it to produce the same amount of energy, so any pollution savings are quickly lost. I also disagree with your assessment that selling more coal to China will be good for the US. What we would be doing, essentially, is exporting raw materials so skilled labor in the China could use the energy to produce manufactured goods. I don’t want to see the US to become a producer of mere raw materials, while our skilled labor jobs move overseas. I also haven’t heard that China plans on forgiving any debts we owe them, just because we sell them more coal.

    Your claim that “China will burn coal until Hell freezes over” is equally misguided. Where are they going to get this coal, exactly? Sure China can import coal from Russia, Australia, etc – but none of those countries have the coal reserves we do in the US. There is a finite supply of coal, and as it becomes scarcer, the price will go up. This will trigger a shift in countries like China to clean, renewable energy sources. If we refuse to dump more US coal on the international market, the shift will happen sooner. It’s a matter of simple economics.

    Finally, your “challenge” in the second paragraph of your comment is laughable, and has nothing to do with what I wrote about in my post. Point me to the place where I said all energy consumption is evil, and that modern technology is a purely bad thing. I support a sensible transition to renewable energy, not an immediate cessation of all forms of energy use. Unlike you, I believe humans have the intelligence and the ability to use technology responsibly.

    I hope that addresses some of your concerns. And really, try not to get into a tizzy just because I challenge some of your assumptions. We can have a rational, respectful conversation, here.

  6. 6 John Shade Dec 16th, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Coal-burning power stations get cleaner and more efficient all the time, and I daresay soon it will be China leading the way with new technologies in this area. There is no question that coal consumption worldwide will continue to grow at least for the next few decades, and there is also no question that a great deal of good will come from this in the developing world, just as it did in the developed one. In due course, we shall find better and more economic ways to generate large amounts of electricity, and coal-fired power stations will become obsolete. But we are not yet there. Your attempts to block coal exports will merely annoy and irritate and cause social and financial loss in Montana if you have any detectable effect at all.

  7. 7 Leo Tuttle Dec 16th, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    We need to extract our inner Viking if we want to save the planet!
    Our modern lifestyle has greatly reduced our connection and symbiotic relationship with nature and we may be standing at the brim of much destruction. The below 2 minute film link looks back at a time when our connection to the land also meant great respect for nature as expressed by Icelandic viking poems that accompany the visuals from an ancient Scandinavian warrior burial site.

  8. 8 nickengelfried Dec 16th, 2011 at 5:08 pm


    You overlook the fact that even though coal plants may be getting marginally more efficient, there is no proven technology that can dependably capture or significantly reduce carbon dioxide from the plants. Nor is such technology likely to be developed any time in the near future.

    You also make the same mistake as Robert above, by assuming China will continue to burn coal no matter what we do in the US. As I explained to Robert, coal is a finite resource, and the price is going to go up over time. In fact, the International Energy Agency just released a new report showing international coal prices are slated to rise (see If the US refuses to sell China our coal, it will of course speed up rise in coal prices internationally, and prompt a faster transition to clean energy in countries like China.

    There isn’t anything mysterious about this process whereby developing countries will choose to make the natural shift to renewable energy. It’s a matter of economics, pure and simple. As energy demand grows worldwide, the price of coal will go up – while the price of renewable energy (which for all practical purposes exists in infinite supply) will only continue to go down. Argument that China will burn coal “no matter what” are misguided.

  9. 9 nickengelfried Dec 16th, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    For anyone following this thread, I should note that plans to hold a regional day of action against coal exports have sparked debate on a railroad industry web forum, which apparently is sending their members over here to comment on my post and call us climate activists names.

    The railroad industry stands to benefit financially from coal export proposals, so it’s no surprise their supporters are worked up. If you want to see some of the cute (well, amusingly misinformed) things they’re saying about the upcoming day of action, check it out at,2634517,2634691

    I’m excited to see the youth climate movement in the greater Northwest is powerful enough to earn the angst of industrial players. Let’s have a great weekend of action February 18th-19th!

  1. 1 A New Year’s Resolution: Mobilize in Mass to Halt Coal Exports « It’s Getting Hot In Here Trackback on Jan 2nd, 2012 at 11:37 pm
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About Nick

Nick is a freelance writer, climate activist, and a graduate student at the University of Montana. He got his start in activism by helping to establish a new campus recycling system at Portland Community College; since then he has organized to stop fossil fuel projects and open up space for clean energy in Oregon, Washington, and Montana. Nick is currently working with activists throughout the Greater Northwest to protect Northwest communities from coal export projects. When not in school or organizing for a clean energy future, he can be found hiking in the natural areas around Missoula, bird watching, or writing a novel.

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