Wyo. senators urge approval of proposed Northwest coal export terminals
Written byMANUEL QUINONES, E&E
Two Senate Republicans who support increased U.S. coal exports to Asia urged federal permitting agencies to ignore environmentalists' call for a broad review of six proposed shipping terminals in the Pacific Northwest.
Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi of Wyoming sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Army Secretary John McHugh urging them to stick with project-level permit reviews. Under pressure from environmentalists, the Army Corps of Engineers is considering a broader environmental review of the projects.
"We believe that the National Environmental Policy Act does not require these steps and that taking them would set a dangerous precedent for American exports," Barrasso and Enzi wrote in their letter yesterday.
U.S. EPA sent the Army Corps a letter in April expressing concern about expanded coal exports increasing greenhouse gas emissions, rail traffic, coal dust and increased mining (Greenwire, April 13).
But Enzi and Barrasso, who represent parts of the coal-rich Powder River Basin, echo coal companies in saying that more exports would promote employment. All the proposed terminals combined could increase exports by more than 100 million tons per year, with much of that amount coming from Wyoming and Montana.
"It makes no sense to cede the Asian market for coal to countries such as Australia especially when America has an 8.2 percent unemployment rate," the senators wrote.
Referring to U.S. coal companies' having to rely on Canadian terminals, Enzi and Barrasso said that "the Administration should not outsource jobs to Canada especially when over 460,000 people in Oregon and Washington cannot find work."
In a press release, the senators refer to EPA as the "export prevention agency."
"We find it deeply troubling that EPA is attempting to impose what is effectively a climate change litmus test on American exports," they wrote. "Restricting exports of American coal will do nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Asia."
The Wyoming senators' letter follows a similar letter from Reps. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.). They were joined by dozens of other lawmakers, also demanding project-specific reviews.
On the other side of the issue are other politicians calling for a broad review of export proposals, including Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Oregon Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber (Greenwire, June 29).
Last month, Washington Democrat Jim McDermott introduced a House bill that would impose a $10 tax on every ton of coal extracted to help pay for the effects of increased shipping and handling.