As we continue to debate whether to export 50 million tons of dirty coal a year through the Pacific Northwest, we might want to consider the health and welfare of the people where most of that coal is going: China.

The Beijing government put in place emergency measures on Wednesday to try to combat thick smog that has encased the city... The effort came on the second straight day of air that was rated “hazardous” by the standards of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. That rating, in which the air quality index surpasses 300, means people should not venture outdoors at all.

[...] Beijing sits in the middle of an industrial belt of coal-burning factories... The United States Energy Information Administration released a report on Tuesday that said China now accounts for 47 percent of global coal consumption, almost equal to all other countries in the world combined. Coal consumption in China grew by more than 9 percent in 2011, or 325 million tons, which equaled 87 percent of the total global rise in coal use.

Yeah, that's the ticket. What the Chinese need now is more cheap coal!

I think there's a strong economic argument to make that the negative impact on freight mobility in Washington State alone far outweighs the benefit of the couple hundred permanent jobs these coal terminals might create. But the environmental arguments are overwhelming. These coal trains would be bad for the communities they run through, bad for the Chinese communities in which the coal is burned, and bad for climate change. How can we possibly approve this environmental fiasco with a clear conscience?