Poll Finds Coal Export Supporters Outnumber Opponents

Jul 8, 2014

More people in the Northwest support coal export terminals than oppose them. Those are the results of a new survey. But people who took the survey didn’t feel very strongly about why they support coal exports. For EarthFix, Courtney Flatt has more.

A new DHM Research survey of Northwest residents finds that support for coal exports through the Northwest is up from where it was last year, when the issue was the subject of public debate and news coverage.
Credit Heidi Neilsen / GoodWorks

For the third year in a row, a public opinion poll for EarthFix asked Northwest residents how they felt about transporting coal through the region. That coal would then be exported to Asia.

DHM Research surveyed 1,200 residents in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. It found about half of Northwest residents support coal exports. That’s up a little bit from last year. One third who were surveyed opposed Northwest coal exports, and 19 percent didn’t know.

John Horvick is with DHM Research. He says some of the reasons people support coal terminals are it helps the local economy and generates property tax revenue. As to why the shift in opinion, it’s not clear.

Horvick: “Maybe people are becoming a little bit more cynical, or they’re asking some questions, or the landscape has changed on the issue.”

Environmental groups say as people learn more about coal exports, they start to support them less.

Kerry McHugh is with the Washington Environmental Council. The group opposes coal export terminals. She says dust from trains carrying coal could harm communities along railroads, and pollution from exporting and burning coal overseas could eventually wind up in the Northwest.

McHugh: “It just really starts to add up that it’s not worth it.”

Over the past three years surveys have shown public support for exporting coal dipped as state agencies hosted large meetings and reviews about the terminals.

Fewer meetings took place this year. Support has risen. Opposition has stayed about the same.

Kathryn Stenger is with the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports. The industry-backed group supports coal terminals.

She says one of the main reasons more people are supporting coal exports:

Stenger: “It’s trade-related jobs in Washington State that are at stake here.”

The survey had a margin of error of 2.8 percent.

There are now three proposed export terminals in the Northwest.

Copyright 2014 Northwest News Network