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It is now 8 days since I departed from Portland, OR on the Coal Export Roadshow. Since my last blog update from Spokane we traveled east into Idaho and visited the idyllic town of Sandpoint, nestled on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. I have rarely seen a more beautiful place or had a more pleasant experience than that cool, summer day spent on the lake and by its shore. The local Waterkeeper chapter took us out on their boat and I got a great first-hand experience of all that region’s beauty.
The only mar on the landscape was the train bridge which cut across the lake, beautiful in its construction but ominous in what it portended in terms of coal export trains. While we only saw normal freight trains during the day our night was disturbed a number of times by the roar and clang of coal trains passing right through the center of town and rumbling out over the lake on their way westward. I still vividly recall, earlier that day while in a boat going beneath the train bridge, spying an osprey nest with two parents guarding it diligently, the male shrieking out in warning whenever we came too close. The thought of increased trains contaminating their nesting site with coal dust was particularly troubling for me, but nothing compared to the concern of a coal train derailing and plunging its contents into Lake Pend Oreille. I have rarely seen a more perfect example and symbol of the fight against coal in general: the risks associated, and the true costs that all life on this planet will pay if these exports are allowed to continue and increase.
After Sandpoint we journeyed down into Montana and stopped in Missoula where we met up with local Montanans concerned about coal exports. As we spoke, coal trains chugged into the rail yard in downtown Missoula. Standing there, we saw firsthand the dust these trains leave behind. One of our new friends, with Blue Sky Campaign, lives right near the tracks, and already has to deal with significant coal dust issues on his property.
The next day we made our way to Helena, where we met up with a bunch of people from all over the country, though most are from various regions of Montana. We spent the weekend preparing for the actions that are to be held all this week at the capitol building. The Coal Export Action crew made a bunch of signs, collected donated food, and lead outreach efforts throughout Helena, including a phone bank last night.
Now we are camped out in the rotunda of the capitol building after a morning rally with speeches and chants out on the capitol steps. We marched in with a group of over 50 protesters and made our way to the Secretary of State’s and Governor’s offices where we delivered letters signed by the protesters calling on these leaders to stop the development of coal export mines in Montana. For the next week, we will continue to occupy the rotunda at the capitol building, holding workshops, and maintaining pressure on the government here to heed the concerns of their constituents who are concerned about the effect of the coal mines on Montana, and the effect of coal fired power generation on the world in general.
If you are in the area please come down and join us. We will be starting at 11am every morning and going late into the afternoon. Diana and I have to leave this evening, but you can stay tuned in to the action by visiting CoalExportAction.org, and continue to follow the action on twitter: @coalxportaction #nocoalexports #stopcoalexports.