Big Coal Cries For Help In Pacific Northwest Exports Fight


Coal trains idle on the tracks near Gillette, Wyo.

Coal trains idle on the tracks near Gillette, Wyo.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Matthew Brown

In the battle over proposed coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest, Goliath is begging for reinforcements.

During an energy forum held Wednesday in Billings, Montana, developers of the two largest wannabe facilities to send our carbon to China told attendees they’re getting outgunned by the Birkenstock bunch.

They’re up against “lots and lots of ground-level organizing,” said Wendy Hutchinson of Millennium Bulk Terminals, which wants to build a facility in Longview, Washington to send 44 million metric tons of coal a year to the other side of the Pacific Rim. “And I’ll tell you, the opposition is better at it than we are.”

According to the Missoulian, Hutchinson was joined by Bob Watters of SSA Marine, one of the nation’s largest shipping companies, who made the jobs pitch: “You can generate good, family-wage jobs and be good stewards of the environment.” SSA Marine is the developer of a proposed Gateway Pacific terminal at Cherry point in far northwest Washington.

The Gateway Pacific terminal would have the capacity to ship 54 million metric tons of coal annually. It is facing fierce opposition from local residents and the Lummi Tribe, which fears the terminal will ruin their ancestral fishing grounds.

Millennium is owned by Arch Coal and Ambre energy, an Australia firm, and also is part owner of the Decker Mine in Montana.

A broad grassroots coalition is fighting the proposed terminals, and a third planned shipping facility on the Columbia River in Oregon, united by concerns over the climate impacts of large exports, a predicted huge increase in rail traffic across the Great Plains and Pacific Northwest, and potential health impacts from coal dust and diesel fumes from trains carrying coal from the Powder River Basin in northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana.

But U.S. coal producers are on board. “We either stand alone and fall, or we become a team and help each other,” Montana Coal Council director Bud Clinch said at the forum.