Monday Scan: Mother nature at risk in Northwest, Alaska

The Seattle Times‘ Craig Welch provides a wide-angle analysis of the Northwest’s evolving role as the center of gravity for coal exports to east Asia. (Crosscut’s Bob SimmonsFloyd McKay, Daniel Jack Chasan, and other writers have tracked the issue since its inception, with a  focus on Bellingham’s Cherry Point.) An analogue in terms of volume may be the Great Japan Earthquake of 1923 when ports in Everett and Seattle shipped raw materials en masse to rebuild Tokyo. However, in an age of hightened awareness about global warming, China’s humongous appetite for coal looks quenchless. 

“Physicians fret about an explosion of locomotive exhaust, while mayors grumble about the potential for long traffic-snarling trains. Washington state fears 1,200 new barge trips on the Columbia River could spark more accidents and marine-vessel groundings. Tribes worry that spilled coal could poison aquatic food webs,” Welch writes. “But as the federal government begins its first lengthy review of plans to ship coal through Northwest ports, it’s not clear how — or if — the feds will weigh in on perhaps the most far-reaching issue: the potential effect new markets for coal could have on greenhouse-gas emissions.” 

The issue is best reduced to a traditional 5-7-5 haiku: 

Bellingham tree frog

Black gold flows like a river

China awakens

Because of its fecund, near-otherworldly salmon runs, Alaska’s Bristol Bay has a tangible impact on Washington’s economy. So why plant a poisoned tree (in this case, the proposed Pebble mine) so close to the garden of Eden? As the‘s Joel Connelly writes, “The Bristol Bay fishery amounts to $480 million each year and supports 14,000 full- and part-time jobs.  As an example, the Kvichak River is the world’s greatest producer of sockeye salmon, the Nushagak River the fourth-largest source of Chinook salmon in the world.”  

Connelly gets his paws on the Environmental Protection Agency’s preliminary assessment of the proposed copper and gold mine. It makes for sober reading. “Elimination or blocked streams under the minimum and maximum mine footprints would result in the loss of 55 to 87.5 miles of possible spawning or rearing habitats for

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