A Wyoming-based corporation’s plan to get federal-sign off on use of a vacated rail line has provoked Humboldt County’s Board of Supervisors into pursuing a local coal export ban.

At their Oct. 5 meeting, supervisors took action on heading off coal export through Humboldt County.

During public comment, Colin Fiske of the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities asked the county to also get involved in the federal railbanking process.

Fiske said railbanking is “the most effective way to address the coal export threat” and it’s important for the county to advocate for it.

Also during public comment, Bruce Silvey of the Humboldt Trails Council said the environmental impacts of coal transport are severe and proposals for it have been squashed in several West Coast regions.

“It would take hours to lay out all the research on the damage and unavoidable toxic coal dust in the air and water, and human health impacts that come with transporting and exporting coal,” he said. “And then there’s coal’s impact on climate change.”

Supervisors didn’t need to be persuaded and public comment was limited to a handful of people due to lack of doubt about what the board’s stance would be.

Supervisor Rex Bohn had suggested that there’s no need for public mobilization against coal transport through the county because there’s absolutely no support for it. “This horse is dead and the hole’s already dug,” he said.

Read More

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution opposing the threat posed by potential coal exports via Humboldt Bay.

The notion that such a resolution would even be considered may have seemed implausible as recently as early last month. But then news broke that a mysterious corporation is trying to take over the North Coast Railroad Authority’s right-of-way between Humboldt Bay and the San Francisco Bay Area in an apparent effort to facilitate large-scale exports of coal from the Powder River Basin to markets in Asia.

Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson and Fourth District Supervisor Virginia Bass brought Tuesday’s resolution to the board, and in his introductory remarks Wilson said there’s fairly strong evidence that people behind the shadowy, newly formed North Coast Railroad Co., LLC, are fueled by the dirty-burning mineral.

“I think it’s reasonable for Humboldt County to take the potential for coal exports seriously,” Wilson said.

He mentioned a study commissioned by the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District, back when he was on the board of commissioners, which found that coal was the only commodity valuable enough to potentially cover the hefty price of rehabilitating the dilapidated rail line between Humboldt Bay and Willits.

Read More

The smoke is starting to clear from a bizarre scheme to ship coal up the North Coast on a long-defunct rail line for export.

A likely destination is China, which relies heavily on coal-fired power plants and has recently reported a severe depletion of its coal supply.

This is a crazy, costly, hazardous plan. In this age of climate change, when reducing greenhouse gas emissions is crucial, it isn’t a stretch to say that creating new supply lines for coal-fired power plants anywhere is bad for the entire planet.

Trains haven’t run between Willits and Eureka since 1998, when winter storms destroyed much of the rail bed. It wasn’t the first time. Over the previous 10 years, the 110-mile route through the Eel River Canyon was closed time and again by mudslides that washed out the tracks.

So, it wasn’t particularly surprising that those behind the venture tried to stay in the shadows. Or that a little exposure to sunlight sent a few participants scurrying for cover.

But the petition hasn’t been withdrawn. Rep. Jared Huffman, state Sen. Mike McGuire and other North Coast elected officials are organizing opposition. Meanwhile, reporters from Salt Lake City to Santa Rosa to Eureka are still digging for details about the North Coast Railroad Company and this antediluvian plan to ship dirty coal around the globe.

Read More

Even before the Outpost broke the story that a secretive corporation is trying to take over the North Coast Railroad Authority’s right-of-way in an apparent scheme to export coal to Asian markets via Humboldt Bay, state and federal lawmakers have been pulling out all the stops in hopes of thwarting the plan. 

As the latest line of defense, U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, our current representative in Congress, and U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, who formerly repped the North Coast but now represents California’s 5th District (which includes all of Napa County and parts of Contra Costa, Lake, Solano and Sonoma counties) have sent a letter to former South Bend mayor and presidential candidate/current U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg urging his department to withhold any and all financial assistance for this apparent coal export project.

Here’s the letter:

Read More

After numerous attempts to reach Wiyot Tribal Administrator Michelle Vassel and Tribal Chair Ted Hernandez for comment in recent weeks, the Outpost received an email Wednesday afternoon with statements from both Vassel and Wiyot Tribal Secretary Marnie Atkins concerning the efforts by North Coast Railroad Company, LLC, to take over the rail line between Humboldt Bay and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Both statements are reproduced in full below.
 
From Vassel:
I have been repeatedly contacted by Mike McGuire’s staff, Jason Liles, who informed me Monday night about the memo quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune. I do not know any one of the names associated with the memo, and I am not quoted in the memo as stating the Tribe is “fully committed.”  

There is a statement in the memo that reads, “The Wiyot Nation is “fully committed to this project… ,” which is not attributed to me.   From my recollection about this call, it was a presentation about Humboldt Bay and potential port development. The Tribe participates in meetings like this every day. We review permits, we review concepts, we review economic development projects. We carefully consider each project and conduct due diligence efforts to ensure that any potential project aligns with the Tribe’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of Wiyot people and their ancestral lands...

Read More