Should Washington state play a part in sending U.S. coal to China?
As our trade deficit grows, there's a new opportunity to send China potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in coal. The United States has one of the world's great coal deposits in the Powder River Basin. Now, the issue is how to get that coal from Montana and Wyoming out to the Pacific. One of the most direct routes would take the coal by rail through Longview, Wash.
"What are the things that we can do to generate economic activity in the United States? One of those things is shipping stuff to other countries," said Joe Cannon, CEO of Millennium Bulk Terminals, an Australian-backed company. Millennium purchased the old Reynolds Aluminum plant in Longview and has promised to clean up the site and convert it into a coal export terminal.
But environmental groups question why Washington state, which has taken steps to reduce its own coal consumption, would now want to assist in sending coal to China.
"If we don't supply it to them, they're going to have to start thinking about alternatives," said Jan Hasselman, an attorney with Earthjustice.
Millennium initially filed an application for a shoreline permit, saying it wanted to export 5 million tons of coal a year. But it withdrew its application after internal documents revealed it had plans to build two more docks and ramp up to 60 million tons. Now, Cannon says the company is preparing to re-apply, and he pledges to be straight forward on any future expansion plans.
"This is a company that has demonstrated unquestionably that it will lie in order to get this project built," Hasselman said.
The decision will be up to three Cowlitz County Commissioners. Meanwhile, a competing company is applying to build another export terminal near Bellingham.
"It's either going to go expensively and with more emissions, train emissions to Canada, or it's going to go through the Gulf Coast, it's going to go to Asia," Cannon says.
Much more on the controversy over coal this weekend on KING 5 News Up Front. Sunday at 4:30 and 11:30 p.m. on KING, 11 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. on KONG, and 8 p.m. on NWCN.