Labor vs. environmentalists: Democrats split over coal
Sometimes issues arise that expose the fractures within existing partisan alignments. One such issue is the proposed transport of coal by rail and barge to Oregon ports for export to China.
My point is not to debate the issue here, although I am one of those rare Republicans willing to admit that I believe in global warming and think human activity is the primary cause of it. But I'm also increasingly pessimistic that the very modest steps the world is taking will counter the prevailing trends. Most of what has been done so far is little more than posturing, and I put in that category trying to stop coal from passing through Oregon that China will end up burning in any event.
But as I said, my intent here is not to debate that point, but to examine this issue as the latest breach between two very significant interest groups within the Democratic Party base: labor and environmentalists.
This is neither a new conflict nor a singular one. We've seen similar fights over attempts to site liquefied natural gas terminals in Oregon and the ongoing battle over the Columbia River Crossing. It may be too simplistic to frame this as a choice between creating jobs and protecting the environment -- obviously, we want both -- but there is often a tradeoff between how many jobs we want to create (or are willing to lose) and how much environmental damage we will accept (or environmental enhancement we will demand) as a consequence.
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According to data provided by developers and the ports, the terminals would generate a total of roughly $25 million in taxes annually.