SANDPOINT — Bonner County may just find themselves on the big screens of the film festival circuit following the recent filming of documentary footage in town.
A recent panel discussing the controversies of proposed coal train exports was captured by San Francisco film crew Plus M Productions. The footage will be used in upcoming documentary “Momenta,” anticipated to premiere in February 2014.
Throughout the evening, Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper executive director Shannon Williamson, film director Andy Miller, professional snowboarder and Sandpoint native Nate Holland, Spokane Riverkeeper executive director Bart Mihailovich, Sandpoint City Councilman Aaron Qualls and environmental advocate Gary Payton detailed what they viewed as a dangerous proposal to expand coal shipments.
According to their data, the Asia-bound cargo shipments would result in more than 100 million tons of coal passing through Sandpoint in uncovered train cars annually.
Miller said he was inspired to make the documentary upon hearing concerns from communities in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington regarding the proposed coal shipments. Unlike high profile environmental controversies like the Keystone Pipeline, however, he felt these coal shipments weren’t receiving sufficient national attention.
“We think this is a huge issue for our country, and we wanted to do something about it,” he said.
Miller and the rest of the panel had several concerns regarding the coal shipments. First, the energy production from the coal would only benefit China and other Asian importers, but the resulting carbon emissions would impact everyone, panel members said. According to Williamson’s data, emissions would be the equivalent of 25 million vehicles annually.
Of more immediate concern to Pacific Northwest communities are the 60,000 pounds of coal dust lost over the course of a coal shipment. Williamson said these dust particles had adverse health, air and water quality effects. In addition, the potential for train derailment prompted even more concern for the air and waterways of the Northwest.
These concerns are reflected in “Momenta” by environmental advocates, academics and community members throughout the Pacific Northwest. A project made possible through Kickstarter funding, the filmmakers have traveled through several states collecting footage and interviews for the documentary. After its premiere, “Momenta” will likely be entered into festivals all around the country, Miller said. He hopes the tour will bring increased national attention to the controversial proposals.