THE BLOG
01/10/2014 12:55 pm ET | Updated Mar 12, 2014

Marquee Investor Backs Away from Coal Exports in the Northwest

One of the largest investment banks in the world has backed away from the Cherry Point coal export proposal in Washington.

Earlier this week, financial giant Goldman Sachs sold off its stake in the parent company of SSA Marine, the developer of the dirty and dangerous coal export terminal at Cherry Point.

This is the latest in a series of setbacks for the proposal, which aims to export 50 million tons of Western coal to Asia every year. If built, it would be the largest coal export terminal in North America. Cherry Point is one of six coal export terminals proposed in recent years, and three of those have already been abandoned after years of robust local opposition.

The decision by Goldman Sachs to walk away from the Cherry Point coal export terminal is one more strike against this polluting, climate-disrupting, highly controversial project. From Montana where the coal would be mined, all the way to Cherry Point, community members have opposed this project every step of the way.

Our groundswell of public opposition has shown that no one wants dirty coal exports in their community. From polluting communities with toxic coal dust to threatening our climate, thousands of Northwest residents have made it clear that coal exports pose too much harm for our communities.

While another investor (a businessman from Mexico named Fernando Chico Pardo) bought Goldman Sach's stake, this decision is one more big dark cloud on the coal industry's economic horizon. Goldman Sachs signaled their concern with coal investments in a report last July entitled "The window for thermal coal investment is closing." The report forecasts long-term economic headwinds for the coal industry and stated that "the potential for profit­able investments in new thermal coal mining capacity is becoming increasingly limited."

This move by Goldman Sachs underscores the continued market uncertainty and doubt regarding coal, but of course grassroots activists in the affected communities are still up against a lot of money. Peabody and SSA can cycle through investors all they want, but communities across the Northwest will continue fight them every step of the way.

I'm inspired by the thousands of people - tribal members, parents, doctors, nurses, business owners, faith leaders, teachers, public officials, and more - who have spoken out against coal exports at all the recent hearings in Washington. More than 13,000 people attended public hearings over the past two years to express overwhelming opposition to these projects.

This news comes on the heels of another victory by Northwest residents who are holding companies accountable for their pollution. On January 2, a judge ruled against BNSF Railway Company and said that a lawsuit over water pollution from their train cars can go forward.

In the summer of 2013, the Sierra Club, Puget Soundkeeper, Columbia Riverkeeper, Spokane Riverkeeper, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Friends of the Columbia Gorge filed the lawsuit against BNSF after finding substantial amounts of coal in and along several Washington waterways near BNSF rail lines. A similar case is also pending before the Western District of Washington in Seattle.

Across the U.S., people from all backgrounds are demanding accountability from polluters and calling for clean energy instead of dirty fuels.

Goldman Sachs sees what so many business owners, doctors, environmental advocates, and local elected leaders are saying: coal exports are a bad bet for the Northwest.