Montana, North Dakota attorneys general support coal export project

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem have submitted joint comments on the scoping for an environmental impact statement (EIS) for a bulk commodities export terminal in Longview, Wash.

If built, the Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview (MBTL) project would transload coal mined in Montana from rail to ship for export to overseas markets.

“As one of the most trade-dependent states in the nation, Washington knows full well the importance of access to global markets. Montana is simply asking that Washington regulators follow established law in conducting their reviews,” Fox said in a Nov. 20 statement.

Earlier this year, the Washington State Department of Ecology announced that it would conduct an unprecedentedly broad EIS for a similar terminal proposal at Cherry Point, Wash. Besides the local impacts of the project, the agency will also look at the global impact of using coal on the other side of the world, as well as the impact of transporting it in areas outside the agency’s legal jurisdiction through the U.S. railway system and international ocean shipping, Fox said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which had originally planned joint EIS’s with state regulators, found Washington’s scope so unreasonably broad that it decided to conduct its own EIS of both the Cherry Point and Longview terminals, Fox added.

Fox and Stenehjem are urging regulators in Washington state to avoid overreach when evaluating the Longview terminal proposal. A Longview terminal EIS scope on the scale of that planned for the Cherry Point terminal, they said would among things:

  • Burden or prevent interstate commerce in violation of the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.
  • Is preempted by Congress’ exclusive prerogative to regulate in the area of extraterritorial regulation of air pollutants.
  • Unconstitutionally usurps the prerogatives of the federal government with respect to international commerce and foreign policy.
  • Is outside the scope of the Washington state’s authority under the U.S. Constitution and Washington law.

“Access to overseas markets is vital to Montana’s economy,” Fox said. “In addition to providing 1,300 direct jobs currently, coal mining provides a significant number of indirect jobs, generates tens of millions of dollars for Montana’s schools and local governments every year, and helps provide Montana state government with regular budget surpluses. Increased access to overseas markets will mean more family-wage jobs for Montanans, more money for Montana schools, and a greater likelihood of future state budget surpluses.”

The project site is located in Cowlitz County, Wash., in an industrial area along the Columbia River just west of the city of Longview. The project includes construction of two piers in the Columbia River connected by a conveyor and access ramp. Both piers would be connected to dry land by an access trestle approximately 800 feet long. The piers and trestle would support two ship loaders.

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.