US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Washington State bishops call for holistic review of coal transportation proposal

By Elizabeth Lefebvre | Print this pagePrint |

As a former resident of Washington—Washington State, that is—I was happy to see the bishops there recently called for a thorough independent review of proposed coal export terminals proposed in Longview and Cherry Point.

The proposals would involve coal being shipped from Montana and Wyoming to the two Washington terminals, traveling in uncovered cars through both cities and rural areas. In a statement, the bishops expressed concern for how the increase in shipments could affect regional transportation, climate change, and Native American rights, among other considerations.

The bishops noted that they protection of the environment a moral obligation. But what I appreciated about the statement was that it went beyond the duly important call to our moral sensibilities and the obligation to care for creation. The bishops acknowledged the nuances of the situation, saying: “The proposals in question involve an interrelated set of moral, environmental, social and economic issues: from climate change to the need for jobs and the human right to participate in work; from transportation congestion created by increased coal train traffic to the possible destruction of state fisheries and threats to Native American treaty rights. These are not easy issues to balance, and therefore much study and broad consultation are required to reach prudent and just decisions.”

The bishops are correct that we have a moral obligation to protect the environment and care for God’s creation. They are also correct that doing this often involves examining related questions of human dignity, economic choices, and cultural heritage.

And perhaps most importantly, as the bishops conclude, “We are all responsible” for making sure all considerations are taking into account when facing such tough decisions.

Image of Longview, Washington: Prashkan90 via Wikimedia Commons