The Dirty Business of Coal Export

July 31, 2012

With demand for coal-fired power declining in the U.S., coal companies have hatched a new plan to expand their business: ship more than 150 million tons of coal every year from strip mines in Montana and Wyoming to China and other Asian countries via six proposed export terminals in Oregon and Washington.

Coal export is a complex, multifaceted issue that touches the lives of Northwesterners in many ways. Moving all that coal by train and storing it in huge piles at West Coast terminals would hurt the health, safety, quality of life and prosperity of communities across the region and cause widespread disruption to emergency response, commuter and freight mobility. Coal export would also reverse hard-won progress to build a regional economy based on high-tech and clean technologies and undermine actions to avert the worst consequences of climate change.

Citizens and local elected leaders in cities and towns across the Northwest are organizing against coal export out of concern for their families, neighborhoods and communities and because coal export is the wrong direction for our energy and climate future.


  • Led focus group research to understand how various audiences evaluate coal export, test initial campaign messages and assess the impact of imagery.
  • Developed a messaging platform to tap into core values and concerns over community impacts while also educating key audiences about the broader climate and energy consequences of coal export.
  • Trained campaign partner staff and diverse spokespeople, including doctors and business leaders, on messaging and interview skills.
  • Packaged and pitched key reports and timely feature stories, responded to breaking news opportunities, drafted campaign media and outreach materials.


The campaign to stop coal export is the latest front on the high stakes battle over America and the world’s energy future. To keep our communities healthy and safe, and stave off the worst consequences of climate change, we need to keep much of America’s plentiful supply of coal in the ground. The conservation community has enjoyed major success in recent years stopping proposed, new coal-fired power plants in the U.S. If coal companies succeed in establishing a major shipping highway to Asia, much of that progress will be for naught.