How Coal “Self-Bonding” Puts the Public At Risk

If a coal company goes bankrupt, we the people could pay for the mess.

As the Wall Street Journal reported recently, creditors of coal industry giant Alpha Natural Resources just hired a team of advisers to help them “restructure” the company’s debt—financial-speak for “next stop, bankruptcy!” And as the Journal points out, questions about the company’s massive environmental liabilities have played a major role in the company’s recent financial woes:

The company, which has posted four consecutive annual losses, disclosed in May that a Wyoming environmental agency notified the company it no longer qualified

 …  read more »

Be the first to comment.

1 Million Barrels a Day, 100 Trains a Week

A new oil train analysis for the Northwest.
Original Sightline Institute graphic, available under our free use policy.

Original Sightline Institute graphic, available under our free use policy.

Sightline is re-releasing a popular report: The Northwest’s Pipeline on Rails. It’s the most comprehensive regional analysis of plans to ship crude oil by train. This update includes important new information showing far greater increases in oil train transport than previously thought. All told, the Northwest could soon be seeing more than one million barrels of crude oil by rail per day—far more than the Keystone XL Pipeline would move.

Moving large quantities of oil by rail would represent a major change for the Northwest’s energy economy, and the plans now in development put the region’s communities at risk.

Why does it matter?

  • In British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington, 15 refineries and port terminals are planning, building, or already operating oil-by-rail shipments.
  • If all of the projects were built and operated at full capacity, they would require more than 100 loaded mile-long trains per week Read more »

Weekend Reading 7/3/15

Northwest's extreme heatwave, guns vs bikes, and a free climate justice event in Seattle.
Original illustration by Nina Montenegro of


Little known fact about me: my first publishing venture was not Sightline. It was an alternative newspaper I ran with a friend in junior high school. My co-publisher was Clark Cohen, who went on to have an astonishing career as an entrepreneur in aviation and aeronautics. He recently published a piece for the space-research community that has tucked within it one of the most lucid and insightful arguments for reforming Congress through ranked choice voting in multi-winner districts that  …  read more »

Be the first to comment.

South Korea to Boost Its Coal Tax

Major importer makes life even more difficult for US coal exporters.
South Korean flag

South Korean flag Image by Nudimmud used under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you follow Northwest coal export issues, you’ve probably heard that China’s demand for coal is sinking fast. Overall coal consumption in China fell a whopping 8 percent the first four months of 2015—an astonishing decline for an economy that’s growing as quickly as China’s. But imports really took it on the chin, with China’s customs department reporting that the country’s ports handled 38 percent less coal from January through May than in the same months of the prior year. China’s import decline has kept Pacific Rim coal prices in the doldrums, and completely deflated market expectations for ready profits from the international coal trade.

But what’s less well known is that China isn’t the only country that’s posing a challenge to coal exports. South Korea, which is the destination for much of the US coal shipped across the Pacific, is seeing many of the same trends. Read more »

Be the first to comment.

Weekend Reading 6/26/15

What's the Hyperloop?; the top highest paid NW CEOS; and deadly oil fields.

Sightline Sues Obama Administration over Crude Oil Exports and Illegal Secrecy

Moving forward on our unanswered FOIA request from February.

Weekend Reading 6/19/15

The Mariners' "BNSF Blast" ad, Australian aboriginals oppose coal, and more.

Listen In: Oregon’s Path to Making Polluters Pay

A radio interview covers both climate change and democracy.

Hate Gridlocked Legislatures?

Don’t blame politicians. Blame our voting system.

Events: Oil Trains in Spokane, WA, and Sandpoint, ID

What the onslaught of coal and oil trains means for area residents.