An overlooked item in the House Democrats’ operating budget is a $150,000 proviso for a study of the economic impact of coal-export facilities on Washington state.
Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, called attention to the tiny allocation in the Democrats’ $34.5 billion proposed budget released Wednesday. He said in an email that it “recognizes the need for Washington to thoroughly evaluate the economic impacts of coal exports in our state.”
“We refuse to let the project proponents and the federal government be the only sources of information on this issue, and this study will produce a rigorous and objective analysis that will properly inform decision-makers at the state level,” Carlyle said.
The coal industry’s attempt to restore its flagging fortunes by shipping much more of the fossil fuel to China and India by way of Washington and Oregon is attracting growing objections.
As McClatchy Newspapers reported last week, the industry has dropped proposals for export terminals in Coos Bay, Ore., and Grays Harbor. The surviving four proposals call for coal exports from the Gateway Pacific terminal near Bellingham, the Millennium Bulk Terminals of Longview, the Morrow Pacific Project at Port of Morrow, Ore., and the Port Westward Project at Port of St. Helens, Ore.
The exports could hit 100 million tons of coal a year and increase carbon emissions by some 240 million tons a year.
Gov. Jay Inslee campaigned on a clean-energy platform and has talked a lot about the economic opportunity in moving away from fossil fuels.
Last month, he joined Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber in asking the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality to consider climate-change and air-pollution impacts of exporting coal from federal lands to Asia.
“We cannot seriously take the position in international and national policymaking that we are a leader in controlling greenhouse gas emissions without also examining how we will use and price the world’s largest proven coal reserves,” they said.
The National Federation of Independent Business chapters in both states put out a joint statement condemning the governors’ requests to the White House.
“Adding (greenhouse gas) emissions to the local, environmental evaluations of export facilities is a costly overreach of an already stringent environmental review process,” said Patrick Connor, Washington state director for the NFIB. “This added hurdle threatens future and existing exports among numerous industries and commodities.”
The House budget proviso calls for the Office of Financial Management to look at the “potential cumulative economic impacts of proposed coal-export projects in the Pacific Northwest.”
It specifies that the agency must take into account impacts to transportation infrastructure, economic development opportunities “forgone in favor of coal-export projects,” global carbon emissions, the state’s major economic clusters, and taxpayers.
The Republican-dominated Senate Majority Coalition Caucus may not go along. It watered down Inslee’s signature bill on climate change, reducing him to the role of non-voting chairman and stripped the legislation of language spelling out Washington’s vulnerability to global warming and acidifying oceans.