Energy is often nebulous. It doesn’t make known to the end-user from where it comes. All we often know is that we get electricity from our plug-ins, gas from the pump, clean water from our pipes, food from the market. The nature of the electric grid and our energy distribution system disguise the effects that energy production often has at its source. In Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, for example, local citizens who are a part of Oregon Rural Action’s sister organizations in the Western Organization of Resource Council (WORC) network are fighting incursions by oil and gas, coal, and coal bed methane developers on their land. Because of the split estate laws of those states, many homeowners, farmers and ranchers do not own the mineral rights under their “surface rights” and energy developers can and have literally set up a drill rig within a stone’s throw of a house, fouling the air, drying up home wells, polluting groundwater, and poisoning livestock.

Coal Exports

Here in Oregon, the state gets over 40% of its electricity from the PGE Coal-Fired Power Plant near Boardman, which receives its coal from these same areas and the families there are just as impacted by its extraction for export.

Coal and other fossil fuel development is based on the practice and principle of externalizing costs, shoving them onto the general public and onto the natural world in the form of pollution, impacts to human health, and destruction of land and water resources. These costs are rarely, if ever, reflected in the price consumers pay. Coal, for example, is a dirty, financially risky fuel of the past filled with substantial hidden costs to society. Every new coal project puts off America’s transition to clean energy and is a step backward at a time when America needs to be reaching for a future of clean and renewable energy sources.  

Coal and other fossil fuel development is based on the practice and principle of externalizing costs, shoving them onto the general public and onto the natural world in the form of pollution, impacts to human health, and destruction of land and water resources. These costs are rarely, if ever, reflected in the price consumers pay. Coal, for example, is a dirty, financially risky fuel of the past filled with substantial hidden costs to society. Every new coal project puts off America’s transition to clean energy and is a step backward at a time when America needs to be reaching for a future of clean and renewable energy sources.

Due to declining domestic coal consumption, coal companies are looking for ways to rev up production and have set their sights on Asian markets. There are currently 9 proposals to exponentially export coal from Montana and Wyoming coal mines on trains through the Pacific Northwest and onto barges eventually shipped to Asia. If these proposals go through, we’re looking at an additional 60 trains per day dissecting our communities.

Oregon Rural Action has two responses to the many fossil fuel proposals facing our region.

  • First, we shine a light on the true costs of fossil fuel development so that people, land, and water do not unfairly bear those costs. In some cases, that means changing the way development is approached and ensuring that laws are enforced; in some cases, it means preventing certain developments because they are inherently unjust.
  • Second, our members understand that making progress to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels also means:
    • helping people to understand the practical value of renewables and energy efficiency, and
    • helping people overcome institutional and policy obstacles to increased use of renewables and energy efficiency.

Additionally, we have significant solar opportunities in Eastern Oregon. Together with an aggressive energy efficiency program, solar power represents a viable alternative to coal in terms of employment opportunities, tax base, and a source of electricity.

We are always looking for individuals who are interested in working with us to fight dirty energy! Join our team!