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Governor Inslee Calls Coal Exports ‘The Largest Decision We Will Be Making As A State From A Carbon Pollution Standpoint’

By Public Lands Team on January 22, 2013 at 2:56 pm

"Governor Inslee Calls Coal Exports ‘The Largest Decision We Will Be Making As A State From A Carbon Pollution Standpoint’"

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By Jessica Goad

Newly-minted Washington Governor Jay Inslee has been lauded for his impassioned views on environmental issues from climate change to renewable energy.  Indeed, his first official act as governor was to write a letter to a clean energy company inviting it to relocate to the state.

In his first press conference as governor last week, Inslee addressed another aspect of the climate change fight in the Pacific Northwest:  proposed coal export terminals that would allow for the shipping of 150 million of tons of coal every year from public lands in Wyoming and Montana’s Powder River Basin abroad.

In response to a question about whether or not federal government analyses of the terminals should take into account the carbon emissions that will come from the burning of the coal exported through the terminals, Inslee said:

It is clear that there are ramifications ultimately if we burn the enormous amounts of Powder River Basin coal that are exported through our ports… It is an enormous number of tons of carbon dioxide that will be released into the atmosphere, it doesn’t matter where it’s burned, it ends up in Puget Sound.  That is a physical fact.

The challenge is to figure out, frankly, for our state from a policy standpoint is where you sort of draw the line in evaluating those impacts from any carbon-based system.  I think that’s a challenge for us. I will say that from what I know, this is the largest decision we will be making as a state from a carbon pollution standpoint certainly during my lifetime, and nothing comes even close to it.  So I’m going to be giving some thought to this.

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Currently, five coal export terminals are proposed for the Pacific Northwest, two in Washington and three in Oregon.  Public hearings on them are underway, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in the process of deciding which impacts to include in its analyses.  Environmentalists and many local leaders have called for a cumulative and programmatic review of all of the terminals together, in addition to the impacts that the trains running from the Rocky Mountain West to the coast will have on communities, waterways, and tribes.

One of the reasons that this is shaping up to be such a large and controversial issue is that coal export terminals are critical to the health of the U.S. coal mining industry and have been referred to as its “hail-Mary moment” now that the U.S. is using less coal for electricity.  The industry’s commitment to getting terminals built can be partially seen in the amount of money it has already spent promoting them—for example, the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports spent $866,000 in September on television advertisements.

Inslee was careful to note in his press conference that he “has not made a decision” on how his administration will address the issues of carbon pollution from coal exports, and how it is intending to move forward on this issue in general.

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18 Responses to Governor Inslee Calls Coal Exports ‘The Largest Decision We Will Be Making As A State From A Carbon Pollution Standpoint’

  1. fj says:

    Money or your life decisions are not difficult.

    • Rabid Doomsayer says:

      Do rush them they are thinking. Thinking that the money is more important.

      • fj says:

        Yeah, and they also believe that he who dies with the most toys wins . . .

        gotta be aliens up there somewhere laughing their fool heads off.

  2. Solar Jim says:

    All the best to Governor Inslee. If he wants his state to be the clean energy leader then he will have competition from places like New York and California.

    Coal trains are contraindicated. In fact, we need to take carbonic acid out of the biosphere, not the other way around.

  3. v Johnson says:

    NO ONE has the right to allow any further polluting of our oceans. The coal industry is an archaic, filthy, toxic, drain on the health of our oceans and one we should leave behind us in the implementation of cleaner, greener energy.
    We voted you in to support our desire for a healthier approach to fueling our Nation and world. We expect nothing less than integrity from you.

  4. Paul Klinkman says:

    Port transportation seems to be a weak link for the fossil industry in general. They can mine the stuff way out in the wilderness, but they have to barge through someone’s pristine coastline to get the dirty stuff offshore. Running pipeline and power line rights of way through people’s houses can also be a bit hard for the companies.

  5. Paul Magnus says:

    Time to stand up and be counted. Time to go to war… “On current policy trajectories, we fail miserably in our stated objectives.

    Only with the kind of urgent and comprehensive economic transitions undergone by nations at war can we avoid over-shooting two degrees. And even then, we are not guaranteed success.

    So next time you read that the International Energy Agency thinks we could face “dire” consequences and the World Bank warns impacts could be “devastating,” don’t yawn and turn the page.

    Find a way to join the movement demanding a planned, aggressive transition away from our dependency on fossil fuels.”

    http://elizabethmaymp.ca/news/publications/articles/2013/01/21/why-a-two-degree-celsius-increase-in-the-global-average-temperature-is-a-big-deal/

  6. Daniel Coffey says:

    One of the more amusing aspects of the coal portage issue is investors willing to take the risk of building what may not be capable of being paid back. This was recently noticed when it became clear that a large part of the anticipated coal export market is China, a country which is deploying large-scale wind and solar PV at a scale beyond most anyone in the west seems to fathom.

    The simple fact is that the mines are going to sell coal at very high prices for a while, and then the market will nearly disappear as local coal, solar and wind dominate.

    Note that it is now projected that the solar PV deployment by China by 2020 will be 100,000 MW. That’s only about 16 times the current US deployment.

    If you are a miner of coal, you are looking for a long-term contract or the deal won’t get funding from the private market, protests or no.

  7. Truth1 says:

    How about legalizing Hemp! Hemp can help farmers as a rotation crop, AND… Hemp is Great for making Biodiesel !!!! Yeah for Hemp and Clean fuels!