Lift the Chokehold on Shipping Coal

The president’s recent rules on greenhouse gas emissions is double troubling

By Dee Brown

Montana’s nickname of The Treasure State is touted on our flag with ‘Oro Y Plata’ – gold and silver, based on our mineral wealth. We have far more treasures in our state in the way of natural resources, including wood products, oil and coal.

At last month’s PNWER-Pacific Northwest Economic Region- meeting at Big Sky I attended an excellent meeting on coal. Diverse panelists from western Canada and the northwestern states shared their knowledge on this important natural resource.

One of the panelists, Del Laverdure, a senior advisor to Chairman Old Coyote of the Crow tribe, spoke of the importance of shipping coal out of the region to world markets. Two-thirds of their budget is derived from its sale and could produce a benefit of $107 million annually to employ their members and reach economic prosperity on the reservation.

There is now a chokehold on shipping coal because of the delays in permitting two deepwater ports in Washington state. One of them will be located in Longview on the Columbia River. Longview was the first privately planned U.S. community and home to many manufacturing centers along the river.

Former manufacturer Reynolds Aluminum is gone and now replaced with Millennium Bulk Terminals. They have partnered with Alcoa to clean up the site and offer dry product shipping.

The Gateway Pacific Terminal north of Seattle is going through the permitting process to add a fourth pier. Canada has gone “all in” on exports from the West Coast just across the border and is employing thousands of workers with good paying jobs.

Making terminals the choking point for not shipping southwest Montana coal will only extend the use of poor quality coal to Asian markets. The need for coal to make electricity in emerging countries is not going away whether we thumb our noses or whether our president puts on increasing demands for a cleaner power plan in the U.S.

The president’s recent rules on greenhouse gas emissions is double troubling knowing that poor quality coal is still being used. How will these U.S. rules help the world as a whole?

Montana’s Crow Nation is home to the highest BTU, lowest sulphur content coal in the world. Doesn’t it make sense to sell our cleaner coal to Taiwan, South Korea and Japan to replace the poor quality coal they now buy from Indonesia? Wouldn’t this go a long way to lowering the emissions globally and lessen the effects of greenhouse gases many are so worried about with this resource?

The sooner the Washington ports are certified, the sooner the Earth will have a cleaner product making electricity. The Crow Nation sees the benefit to their members just as we should see the benefit of lower emissions from this cleaner burning fuel. Higher BTU = less need for coal = lower emissions, thus lessening the carbon in the atmosphere.

I agree with the governor’s disappointment at the latest rulings on emission standards and hope he, too, will be on the side of shipping a better product to all potential buyers. Now we have to convince the president that we are in a global market and could make a difference on the world stage.

As for me, I will definitely vote with the Crow.

Dee Brown is a senator from Hungry Horse