Governors' letter reignites NW coal exports debate

Mar 26, 2013

The debate over proposed coal export terminals in the Northwest is heating up again after the governors of Washington and Oregon sent a letter to the White house on the issue.

Governors Jay Inslee and John Kitzhaber wrote to the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, urging the federal government to conduct a “thorough examination” of the impact on greenhouse gases and air quality if coal terminals are built at ports in Washington and Oregon.

Now supporters of the terminals have shot back, saying the letter could lead to heavy-handed regulation. Lauri Hennessey with the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports, says it could also set a bad precedent.        

“You can look at airplanes, how airplanes and their life cycle contribute towards climate change. You can look at a lot of different products, manufacturing, even wheat," Hennessey says. "There are plenty of things that contribute to environmental problems around the world and I guess the feeling that we have is that that’s not something that the White House has ever done in the past. They’ve never factored in climate change when looking at shipping commodities. So that’s a pretty big change.”

Hennessey says the last time the northwest called on the President’s Council on Environmental Quality to get involved in an issue was twenty years ago during the spotted owl controversy.

The Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports estimates the proposed terminals would create about 11,000 jobs, some in construction.