Here in the Pacific Northwest we are having our own Keystone pipeline like fight. The Montana coal companies what to export coal from the Pacific coast.Coal fight looms, Keystone-like, over U.S. Northwest
Call it the Keystone of coal: a regulatory and public relations battle between environmentalists and U.S. coal miners akin to the one that has defined the Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline.
Having long ago lost their bid to prevent the extraction of fossil fuels, environmental groups aim to close transport routes that bring those carbon fuels to market, pulling local and state politicians into the fight alongside regulators.
Mining interests won a battle last week when the Army Corps of Engineers called for a quick study of plans to open the first coal port on the west coast at Oregon's Port of Morrow on the Columbia River, a review that will weigh impacts of hauling coal, not burning it.
Instead of blocking an import, however, this fight is over whether to allow a growing surplus of coal to be exported to Asia, a decision that would throw miners a lifeline by effectively offshoring carbon emissions and potentially give China access to cheaper coal.What this would mean for the region is hundreds of uncovered coal hoppers moving through the scenic Columbia River Gorge everyday. They would in turn be loaded onto ships and ship it to China. There is also concern that it will clog the already inadequate rail lines interfering with other commerce.
Mining interests won a battle last week when the Army Corps of Engineers called for a quick study of plans to open the first coal port on the west coast at Oregon's Port of Morrow on the Columbia River, a review that will weigh impacts of hauling coal, not burning it.But we will get some of that coal back. The Pacific Northwest already has mercury from coal Chinese power plants in it's lakes and rivers.
Coal port skeptics say the ruling is ripe for challenge in the courts and they foresee a drawn-out fight over the review.
"I'm afraid that by choosing to perform a less stringent analysis today, the Corps will ultimately create a longer delay," Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement. Wyden, who is due to lead the Energy and Natural Resources Committee if Democrats hold the Senate, has said he supports a full review of the project and is reserving judgment until it is completed.
'War on coal'? Why Obama might not be industry's worst enemy
Rise of cheap natural gas appears to be bigger threat than environmental regulation