Coal Export Terminal Deserve Fair Review (Casper Star Tribune)
Editorial board: Needed: Fair environmental review of coal export terminals
Gov. Matt Mead was brimming with optimism after his visit to Longview, Washington, to lobby for construction of three coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest. Mead said the trip “keeps … the discussion going forward and gives us all an ability to find a solution to get this done.”
But speaking to our editorial board on Thursday, he said that opponents’ quest for a broad-scale review of global environmental effects from the ports isn’t an honest desire. It’s an “inappropriate sword” meant to kill the project, not a shield for the environment around the ports, he said.
We agree. The terminals appear to face a perilous road. Opponents are insisting on a global, cradle-to-grave environmental review using a process that would result in what’s known as a programmatic environmental impact statement. Their desire for such a review — one typically used for huge projects in multiple states or stretching thousands of miles — provides convenient cover for their out-and-out obstructionism on coal.
Let’s be clear about one thing: The opposition harbors a prejudicial antipathy toward coal as a source of energy. The local and national environmental groups that have coalesced around the issue are using the “dirty coal” ploy to exclude Wyoming coal — any coal, for that matter — from Columbia River ports and Asian energy portfolios. Wyoming coal, however, provides a far more environmentally friendly option to Asian consumers than coal mined in, say, Indonesia.
By setting the bar impossibly high, opponents are seeking to ensure that the proposal won’t ever stand a chance of becoming a reality. We find that disingenuous.
A global environmental impact review involves so many variables and spans so much time that its conclusions would never be anything more than pure speculation, even for currently measurable facts.
On Thursday, Mead said he doubted that such a review would involve air monitors in China, and he said it’s just as unrealistic to ban Washington-made Boeing aircraft, for example, from flying Wyoming skies until their pollution in our air is fully measured. We venture to say that if such intense scrutiny were applied to most green-energy initiatives, they wouldn’t pass muster with environmentalists, either.
To take just one example, biofuels were originally touted as the breakthrough in clean and green for motor vehicles. Initially enthusiastic converts are now backtracking on such biofuels.
It’s not as if the export terminals won’t get a serious environmental impact probe. They will, the same as so many other projects reviewed under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, a process that’s previously proved satisfactory for environmentalists.
The luxury of disdaining coal is afforded to residents of Washington and Oregon by an energy portfolio that makes both states outliers in power generation. An overwhelming amount of their supply of electricity comes from hydropower plants on the mighty Columbia River. Washington leads the country in hydroelectric generation, and Oregon is second.
Consumers in those two states benefit through low rates on electricity that most other Americans can only envy. Yet when coal suppliers dare raise the prospect of price spikes if coal is removed from the mix, opponents call it fear-mongering.
If they dare to discuss the local economic benefits and potential global environmental boon of burning low-sulfur, low-mercury Wyoming coal in Asian power plants, opponents call them distractions. They disregard the fact that developing countries rely on coal even more than the United States does, and cleaner coal is a far better immediate option for the environment than anything else.
Somehow, Mead remains undaunted, stating that Wyoming has a persuasive case to make to opponents who made up their minds long ago.
Thanks to the economic promise they hold, the terminals certainly do have local support. Through the efforts of Mead and local allies, we hope regulators will realize that the usual environmental review is the appropriate course and that by and large, opponents are just blowing smoke.
See article here.