Students read letter calling for an end to coal use
A protest against coal-fueled power came to an abrupt end on Monday, Oct. 7, when Bellingham police were called to the scene at Puget Sound Energy on State Street.
About 25 Western Washington University students entered the PSE building at 4:30 p.m. to hear the reading of a letter written by student Winter Harms and addressed to the PSE Board, before police escorted the protesters out of the building.
“As students living in a city serviced by Puget Sound Energy, we strongly object to your decision to continue to use coal as a major fuel source for the next 20 years,” the letter began.
Harms’s letter, read aloud by student Chiara D’Angelo, said the use of coal is “no longer acceptable,” and called for the use of alternative energy sources.
“Puget Sound Energy has the infrastructure ability to be a climate justice leader,” Harms’s letter read. “With a continuing decline in renewable energy prices, planning and discussion for the future must include these clean, healthy and renewable sources as a major part of electric generation for Puget Sound Energy and logical alternatives for coal.”
Before leaving, the students submitted copies of the letter, addressed to the PSE board and CEO Kimberly J. Harris.
The privately owned PSE owns a third of the Colstrip power plant in Montana, which has a peak output of 677 megawatts, according to the company’s website. This is more than twice the peak output of their next-highest power generator, Fredonia Generating Station, which runs on natural gas.
Supporters of future coal projects, including the proposed Gateway Terminal, cite economic benefits as an argument for continuing to invest in coal.
“Our primary interest is that Gateway Pacific will be a sustainable source of family-wage jobs and high economic value to Washington state and the United States,” President Jeff Johnson of the Washington State Labor Council said in a letter to Christine Gregoire in 2011. Preliminary projections suggested as many as 4,000 jobs — direct and indirect — and up to $161 million per year in payroll during construction, Johnson said in the letter.
The protest, sponsored by the Western Action Coalition, aimed to push for alternative options and to raise awareness of the risk factors involved with continuing to fuel energy with coal plants. D’Angelo acknowledged the possibility of more public regulation in PSE as a method of changing how coal is transported in the Puget Sound region.
“There is another option of a public utility,” D’Angelo said. “Students know about that option, and we are going to push for that if they choose to put our future at risk.”
The protesters plan to take action at the Utilities and Transportation Commission building on Thursday, Oct. 10 in Olympia, and invite students and community members to send their