Poll shows support in Washington state for coal export terminals

A pro-industry group, the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports, said July 24 that a new poll shows that Washington state voters support proposed export terminals in the Pacific Northwest by a two-to-one margin.

Elway Research reports that 60% of Washington voters surveyed support the shipping terminals, with just 31% opposed. The poll has a margin of error of 5%.

Backers of several coal export terminal projects in both Oregon and Washington have been battling environmental group opposition to these projects as they move through various stages of permitting. The U.S. coal industry sees these terminals as a key to boosting coal exports to countries around the Pacific Rim.

“This respected, independent poll confirms that support for these important bulk commodity terminals remains strong, despite opponents’ claims to the contrary,” said Lauri Hennessey, spokeswoman for the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports. “People understand the importance of exports and trade to our region, as well as the real impact these projects will have on our local communities through the creation of thousands of family-wage jobs and millions in tax revenue.”

These findings are consistent with other surveys conducted during the past year showing strong support for these projects including:

  • A poll by Gallatin Public Affairs found that 56.6% of Washington voters and 54.5% of Oregon voters supported coal exports (November 2012);
  • A poll released by the one of the projects, the Gateway Pacific Terminal, showed that 56% of people in Whatcom and Skagit counties favored the proposed bulk export terminal (Fall 2012);
  • A poll by Moore Information found that 74% support additional rail and barge traffic for the projects, viewing it as crucial to Washington’s export economy and a sign of economic growth, against 15% who say train and barge traffic should not increase (January 2013).

“I expect this independent poll may surprise some people,” said Herb Krohn, Washington state Legislative Director for the United Transportation Union (UTU). “With their media misinformation campaign, opponents of these export terminals have been doing their best to create the impression that they speak for many others. This survey confirms what we’ve known for some time – namely, that opponents represent just an extremely loud but small minority.”

The Elway poll sampled 406 registered voters from around the state and across political parties. The question read: “Currently, there are three proposed terminals in four different ports to be developed independently by four different companies. Potential facilities include the Bellingham ‘Gateway Pacific’ terminal; Longview ‘Millennium Bulk’ terminal in Washington state and the ‘Morrow Pacific’ project in Oregon. The commodities would be transported to and from the terminals by rail cars and barges, and depending on the port, would include shipments of coal, iron ore, potash, corn, wheat or grains. Generally speaking, do you support or oppose this proposal to expand ports in this region?”

The results were: 37% “strongly support” developing the ports; 23% “somewhat support”: 9% “somewhat oppose”; 22% “strongly oppose”; and 10% were “undecided.”

The latest results come as the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports said it is about to take to the air with a new round of radio advertisements, featuring leaders from labor and agricultural organizations voicing their support for the proposed export terminals.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.