SEATTLE - Using electricity in Washington has impacts as far away as Montana and Wyoming. That's the message from a Wyoming rancher, LJ Turner, who is in the Northwest this week to tell people about the damage done to his area by coal mining. Turner has joined what's called the "Dirty Little Secret Tour," organized by the Sierra Club's Northwest office, which estimates Washington utility companies get about 20 percent of their power from coal mined in Wyoming's Powder River Basin. It's where Turner's family has ranched since 1918.
"We're losing the pasture, we're losing our air, we're losing our water. I don't know what else there is going to be left for the coal industry to take from us."
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Turner says dozens of trains haul coal across the area every day, sometimes sparking grass fires. This summer's problem was their well drying up after coal companies diverted water. He doesn't think most Northwesterners are aware of the problems.
"Somebody that lives in Seattle or Portland may not have ever been in the Powder River Basin, but it's a beautiful country - and to me, it's home. It's a home that we're being evicted from by the coal companies."
There are now 20 active coal mines in Wyoming, with proposals for more, and proponents of the industry say it is an important part of that state's economy. Turner and members of native American tribes will share their perspectives tonight at 7:00 P.M. on the University of Washington campus, at Kane Hall. The Sierra Club says the tour is part of a push for cleaner energy, including wind and solar power and energy efficiency.