Upcoming Conference | 2019 Re-Wire Policy Conference, Dec 10, 2019 Register

Montana Attorney General: coal producing states “held hostage” by politicians in Washington State

At the end of May, during a panel at the 2018 Montana Energy Summit, energy industry leaders and Republican lawmakers called out Washington State as a “blockade” to international trade over the state’s denial of permits for the Millennium Bulk coal terminal in Longview, Washington. On Thursday evening, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox took this criticism a step further by specifically blaming Governor Jay Inslee for the stalled terminal.

In an op-ed published in the New York Times, Attorney General Fox claims Gov. Inslee’s true motive in denying Millennium’s permits is that he and his administration simply don’t like coal.

“In denying the permit, the Inslee administration offered a litany of excuses, including the claim that the project would cause impermissible environmental harms,” writes Fox. “But this claim is backed by insufficient evidence and is simply an attempt to mask the true motive: Governor Inslee and his allies don’t like coal.”

Development on the Millennium coal terminal has been in the works for six years, but has been held up by a series of permit denials from the state. In January, Millennium’s parent company, Lighthouse Resources Inc., filed a lawsuit arguing that the state’s actions violate the Dormant Foreign and Domestic Commerce Clauses of the Constitution. By blocking development on the terminal, states like Montana and Wyoming are unable to transport their coal to the terminal and unable to export their coal internationally along this route. Fox also addressed these state impacts in his op-ed.

“The saga of coal production and export over the last decade is fraught with controversy and competing interests,” writes Fox. “Politicians in Washington and Oregon have taken extraordinary steps to prevent exports of raw coal and stop the generation of electricity by burning coal. For states like Montana, these actions have had significant consequences for our economy: lost tax revenue, lost high-wage jobs and diminished ability to engage in international trade.”

AG Fox also writes that Washington’s denial of permits for the Millennium Bulk coal terminal is actually harming the environment.

“The irony of the governor’s discriminatory action is it could actually increase global levels of carbon dioxide and other emissions. Asian countries like Japan and South Korea are moving toward burning more coal, whether or not it comes from the United States. Coal mined from the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming generates lower emissions levels compared with lower-quality coal produce by some other major exporters, like Indonesia. If the Inslee administration continues to choke off the supply of cleaner coal from the United States, Asian demand could shift to dirtier-burning coal produced by other countries.”

Montana is one of six states that recently filed an amicus brief in support of Lighthouse Resources lawsuit against Washington. In his op-ed, Fox continues to voice his support for Lighthouse Resources, writing,

“America simply cannot allow one state to use geography and ideology to discriminate against another state’s commodities. I shudder to think of the precedent set if federal courts allow Washington to deny the expansion of the Millennium Bulk Terminals coal port because of that state’s ideological-driven opposition to exporting coal.”

“Governor Inslee would rather fulfill campaign promises to ideologically driven special interests than recognize the real-world consequences of his agenda.”

You can read Attorney General Fox’s full op-ed here.