Several proposed plans would bring coal mined in Western states to ports in Oregon and Washington for export to Asian markets. Environmentalists say the dust emitted from trains hauling coal would pollute the proposed routes, while opening the door to further environmental damage from its use in Asia. Protesters are saying similar things in other coal exporting regions, such as Australia.

“Anybody who touches coal gets poisoned by it,” said Kennedy, president, Waterkeeper Alliance. “You don’t just get sick. It poisons democracy, it poisons communities, it poisons values. Coal is crime. Do not let it come through this community.”

Others believe the coal shipments would create much-needed jobs at the ports in a state where unemployment has hovered near double digits since the global financial crisis began in 2008-2009.

Millennium Bulk Terminals, a Columbia River port in Longview, Wash., has applied for permits to make it one of the largest coal exporters in North America. “I’m not sure a rally in Portland for a few hours will overshadow the commitment we’ve made to creating jobs here in Longview,” said Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview President Ken Miller. “Millennium is making a significant investment in our community and we are proud of our plan to create hundreds of jobs in Cowlitz County.”