Tag Archives: environmental impact assessment

US Coal Exports to Asia: Coal States v. Coastal States

gateway pacific terminal. image from http://gatewaypacificterminal.com/

Energy wars in America’s West are nothing new. But the rancour aroused by the coal-export proposal[from Montana and Wyoming to Japan, India and China through new ports built in Oregon and Washington] has become as toxic as a four-chimney belcher. Coal states accuse coastal ones of high-minded NIMBYism. Campaigners say corporations have a primeval attitude to the environment. Cities and counties lock horns over jobs and trade. Everyone accuses everyone else of bad faith, basic innumeracy and, in some cases, black ops.

Local objections focus on the trains that would carry coal to the Gateway Pacific Terminal. At capacity, 18 trains a day would run to and from the facility: nine bearing coal and nine returning empty to the mines. BNSF Railway, one of the project’s backers, says little new rail infrastructure would be needed, as traffic remains below its 2006 peak. Sceptics doubt that, and say the bill will be dumped on taxpayers.

Even without new tracks there is plenty to object to. The coal trains would rattle through central Seattle (the empties could return via other tracks, says BNSF), potentially gumming up roads already groaning with congestion. “I don’t want this terminal built,” says Mike McGinn, the mayor. In Bellingham, a group called Whatcom Docs (named for the surrounding county) worries about trains spewing diesel particulates. Others fret about coal dust flying off the trains; the Sierra Club, an environmental NGO, is threatening to sue BNSF for polluting Washington’s waterways.

Excerpts, Coal Exports in the North West: Dirty War, Economist,  Apr. 20, 2013, at 35

Human Rights and Environmental Violations: the Case of Apple, Inc.

An audit released by Apple on Frida (Jan. 14, 2012) (pdf) y reveals widespread violations of worker rights and environmental practices by manufacturing partners for the company’s wildly popular iPhone, iPad and other gadgets around the world.  Apple found that 62 percent of the 229 facilities it inspected were not in compliance with the company’s maximum 60-hour work policy; 13 percent did not have adequate protections for juvenile workers; and 32 percent had problems with the management of hazardous waste.

One supplier was caught dumping wastewater at a nearby farm. Another had a total lack of safety measures, creating “unsafe working conditions,” the report found. Five facilities employed underage workers.  In conjunction with the list of violations, Apple on Friday also released a list of its global suppliers for the first time in an effort to provide more transparency about where the materials for its products are sourced and how the products are put together. The list of 156 companies includes such household names as Intel, Samsung and Sony as well as smaller suppliers in China, Malaysia and Singapore.

The company in the past had refused to divulge its full supplier list even as it became standard practice for multinational corporations to do so after the public outcry in the 1990s over labor problems at Nike factories in developing countries. Apple’s change of heart follows a highly publicized string of factory worker suicides in 2010 and deadly explosions in two Chinese factories in 2011….

Mike Daisey, a critic who has drawn attention to labor problems at Apple factories, said the report was “heartening” but does not go nearly far enough.  “They list the violations and there’s a list of suppliers,” he said, “but the report doesn’t match the supplier to the violation.” Refusing to name specific companies, he said, is the same as tacitly endorsing the practices. “You still can’t use this to hold anyone accountable.”

Hayley Tsukayama. Apple report reveals labor, environmental violations, Washington Post, Jan. 13, 2012