Pacific Northwest Coal Exports

Coal companies are targeting the Pacific Northwest as the gateway for export terminals that would send staggering quantities of U.S. coal to China.

Taken together, these projects represent an enormous shift toward dirty energy, in a region that is known for being clean and green. And although the fight is taking place in the Pacific Northwest, the consequences for our global climate mean that people and wildlife around the planet will be impacted by the results.

How Will the Railways, Ports, and Mines Impact Wildlife and Habitat?

Railways, ports and mines all interfere with wildlife and wildlife habitat. If coal exports in the Pacific Northwest continue to expand, our wildlife will be increasingly more threatened. From orca to elk, there is a wide range of wildlife that falls in the crosshairs of coal exports.

Faced with stagnant demand for coal in the U.S., some of the world's largest coal companies want to ship millions of tons of dirty coal per year through the Pacific Northwest to China and other Asian nations looking to feed their rapidly growing energy appetite.

Coal would be strip mined from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming—America's largest source of coal. It would then be moved in open train cars to ports along the Columbia River and Puget Sound before being shipped overseas to be burned in Chinese coal plants. Arch Coal, Peabody Energy, and other coal giants are trying to ship over 100 million tons or more of coal per year through Washington State and Oregon. That’s enough to fill more than 10,000 trains a year, each over a mile long.

The uncovered, coal-laden rail cars would run through sensitive ecological areas (like the Columbia River Gorge and Glacier National Park) to three proposed terminals in Oregon and Washington. Increased train and tanker traffic, air and water pollution from diesel and coal dust, carbon pollution that fuels climate change, and disturbance of wildlife habitat combine to make these proposals some of the most environmentally threatening projects in the country.

Our Work

The National Wildlife Federation is working to:

To learn more about our coalition's work against coal exports, visit

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Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 52 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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