The Lummi Nation may have won a major victory in their long struggle to block a coal export terminal slated for their treaty protected fishing grounds in Washington state, but they aren’t finished raising awareness about the threats fossil fuels pose to their region. This week, Lummi tribal members will embark once again on a Totem Pole Journey, a profound and powerful expedition through communities threatened by fossil fuel development and export. And as they travel, the Lummi will continue to shine a light on the risks of fossil fuels and unite with partners including environmental organizations, faith groups, indigenous communities and community leaders.
This year’s Lummi Nation House of Tears Carvers 4,865-mile Totem Pole Journey will not only celebrate recent progress, especially the decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to deny the permit for a coal export terminal at Cherry Point, but it will also inform the public about efforts to expand fossil fuel exports and the catastrophic impacts that would have on local communities and Native Nations across the U.S.and Canada. The Lummi Nation also just announced that they’re altering the route this year to meet up with the Standing Rock Sioux, who are currently protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.
This journey provides a great opportunity to share the “cradle-to- grave” impacts of coal and oil - extracted in the Midwest, transported via rail through dozens of rural communities to the West Coast and via tankers to Asia, where it would be burned and released into a rapidly warming atmosphere.
After successfully asserting their treaty rights to stop the proposed Cherry Point coal export terminal earlier this year, there’s still much work to do. A similar export terminal, Millennium Bulk Terminals, is under review in Longview, Washington, along the Columbia River. Nearby in Vancouver, Washington, the Tesoro Savage oil export terminal would see 360,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil a day. Just two months ago, an oil train derailed and ignited near Mosier, Oregon, narrowly missing the small town and the Columbia River but contaminating the area’s drinking water.
The Sierra Club is proud and honored to stand in solidarity with these Tribal Nations in the fight against coal and oil exports in the Pacific Northwest. Over the past several years, we’ve joined thousands of Northwest activists in packing public hearings and rallies to speak out against dirty fossil fuels.
With international demand for coal and oil in decline and clean renewable energy like wind and solar getting cheaper and more efficient, building new fossil fuel infrastructure is a bad investment for our economies and environment.