Coal exports, a favorite topic here at Wonkblog, have become a hot environmental issue of late. Coal use is shrinking in the United States thanks (in part) to cheap natural gas. So coal companies are building terminals in the Pacific Northwest to ship their surplus coal to places like China.

Over at Grist, David Roberts has an excellent overview of this story. Large U.S. mining companies such as Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources have seen their share prices tumble of late. They’re resting their hopes on six new export terminals in Oregon and Washington, which, once built, will enable the Pacific Northwest to ship more than 150 million tons of coal to Asia. In essence, we’d be exporting our carbon pollution overseas. So, to prevent that, environmentalists are trying to bog these projects down. And they’re gaining momentum: Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), for one, has called for a full review of the terminals.