NW Energy Coalition statement on coal exports


Adopted by the Coalition Executive Board on Aug. 18, 2011



Coal companies are targeting Oregon and Washington ports for coal export terminals that would send huge quantities of U.S. coal to the Pacific Rim.

The first terminal, proposed by Australia-based Ambre Energy, would export 25-60 million tons a year of Powder River Basin (Wyoming and Montana) coal from a Longview, Wash., port. The terminal is expected to start by shipping 20 million tons of coal a year and ramp up to 60 million tons a year.

For perspective, the 1,380-megawatt TransAlta coal plant at Centralia consumes 5 million tons of coal each year.

Ambre Energy recently withdrew its Longview permit application, but its subsidiary, Millennium Bulk Transport, is still seeking a permit to upgrade the port and expand the in-river dock. This permit could set the stage for Ambre refiling its coal terminal application.

A second terminal, in Bellingham, Wash., would export 24-48 million tons a year of Powder River Basin coal supplied by Peabody, the world’s largest coal company. SSA Marine is partnering with Peabody on the coal terminal application, now pending in Whatcom County.

A third potential terminal locale is Oregon’s Port of Morrow (near Boardman) where Ambre Energy has signed a one-year lease option. Negotiations apparently are being conducted with the Port of St. Helens, as well, but are not public. No export tonnage projections are available for either of the Oregon ports.

A coordinated opposition campaign is being waged up and down the West Coast and in the Rocky Mountain region. Earth Ministry, Climate Solutions, Sierra Club, Montana Environmental Information Center, Washington Environmental Council and Columbia Riverkeepers are leading Northwest efforts. All but Columbia Riverkeepers are Coalition members. Sierra Club and Climate Solutions are talking with labor and trying to maintain positive relations despite potential disagreement on this issue. ILWU (longshoremen) and LIUNA (laborers) are the primary unions involved. LIUNA is a Coalition member, but has joined with other building trades unions, the Washington State Labor Council and NW Central Labor Council supporting the Bellingham port expansion.

Coalition ally and former University of Montana economics department chair Dr. Thomas Power has explained that marketing U.S. coal to Asia will drive down the cost of coal there, resulting in more coal burning at the expense of increased energy efficiency.


Statement of NW Energy Coalition’s Executive Board on Coal Exports in the Northwest

The Coalition’s mission is to create a clean and affordable energy future in the Northwest by promoting development of renewable energy and energy conservation, consumer protection, low-income energy efficiency and assistance, and fish and wildlife restoration on the Columbia and Snake Rivers.  Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants has been a significant aspect of our work.

The export of coal to be burned in power plants abroad is inconsistent with the Coalition’s commitment to advance investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy resources and to reduce global warming pollution.

The Coalition is committed to securing the economic benefits and new jobs that come from expanded energy efficiency and renewable energy investments in the region. The economic and job benefits of exporting coal from ports in Oregon or Washington are small.

For all these reasons, the NW Energy Coalition opposes the development of new coal export facilities in Washington and Oregon.