Urban Fold

Complicated Duality of Pacific Northwest's Green Image

The energy industry's plans to transport oil and coal bound for Asia via rail through the Pacific Northwest provokes outrage and a lawsuit.
Joanna Poe / Flickr

A plan to increase freight transportation of coal and oil through Washington has drawn the ire of environmentalists and city council members alike. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups have filed a federal lawsuit accusing BNSF Railway of violating the Clean Water Act.

The state's eastern cities expect an increase in freight activity, but don't anticipate any benefits.  The Seattle-Tacoma is likely to receive benefits from the increase in economic activity while eastern cities, like Spokane, could have an enormous increase in train traffic without receiving much in return.  

The reality of the Northwest's green image is more complicated. "Huge dams on the Columbia River make Washington and Oregon Nos. 1 and 2 in the nation in renewable hydroelectricity. But the cheap electricity from those dams fostered an aerospace industry that is hardly carbon neutral. A multistate planning compact made the region a national leader in energy efficiency. But Washington’s big oil refineries can pump out more old-fashioned gasoline than all but a handful of other states."

Full Story: With Proposed Rail Expansion, Northwest Confronts Its Clean Image

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