News Column

Hispanics Oppose Coal Shipments to China

January 15, 2014

Staff Reports --

Open pit coal mine in Wyoming (file photo)

Hispanics may be a varied group, but they are united in their opposition to shipping coal to China from the West Coast, a new poll has found.

A 6-to-1 majority of Hispanic voters are against increasing the amount of coal shipped to China and Asia from West Coast ports, according to research by Latino Decisions and the Latino Policy Coalition. Overall, 64 percent of Hispanics polled said coal shipments should be reduced, while only 11 percent said they should be increased.

The burning of coal accounts for 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to Time magazine, and China now burns more coal than the rest of the world combined.

Mother Jones, meanwhile, points out some of the worst aspects China's increased burning of coal and the impacts on ecosystems here in the U.S. as exporters seek to build new shipping facilities in the Pacific Northwest.

The poll, conducted by the Latino Policy Coalition/Latino Decisions on behalf of the Renewable Energy Accountability Project (REAP), asked Hispanic voters about the new export policies under consideration. By a 2-to-1 margin, they said they would support a new export policy to curb the shipment of coal from the U.S. to China and other Asian markets from West Coast ports.

"These are dramatic findings that need to be taken most seriously by the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington state as they formulate policies and action plans to implement their recent historic climate change agreement," Jim Gonzalez, chairman of REAP, said in a news release.

"Like many other Americans, Latinos care deeply about a variety of issues, including protecting the environment," said Adrian Pantoja, senior analyst at Latino Decisions and an expert on Hispanic public opinion on environmental issues. "In the latest national survey a significant majority of Latinos were again shown to favor policies aimed at reducing air pollution and preventing climate change."

Mr. Pantoja was referring to a Latino Decisions poll from April 2013, which found that 84 percent of Hispanics want stricter air pollution safeguards from the EPA, and that 86 percent would support the president using executive authority to limit carbon pollution.

In that poll, 600 Hispanics were asked: "Generally speaking, do you favor or oppose the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) setting safeguards to limit air pollution that impacts the public health?"

The latest poll comes at a time when the U.S. government is grappling with coal export policy in the West, even as coal companies look to Washington state, Oregon, California and British Columbia to expand coal exports to China as greater restrictions and competition from cheap natural gas are putting a crimp in the coal business.

Matt Barreto of the Latino Policy Coalition contributed.

Source: (c) 2014. All rights reserved.

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