SEATTLE – Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer came to Seattle on Wednesday to meet with his Washington counterpart and push for a proposed major coal shipping terminal on the lower Columbia River.
Schweitzer and fellow Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire met at a downtown Seattle office about the proposal by Millennium Bulk Logistics to build the terminal west of Longview and export up to 5.7 million tons of coal a year to China and other Asian countries.
The coal would come from the Powder River Basin in southeastern Montana and Wyoming.
Schweitzer supports the project as a way to boost his state’s coal-mining industry. Both Montana and Washington should be behind the project, which would improve the economy and create jobs in both states, he said.
“This is a fact-finding mission for me,” Schweitzer said, to learn what coal companies need to do to get the regulatory permission to build the port.
Schweitzer said he’s trying to understand why there’s resistance to exporting coal as opposed to burning it to produce electricity in Montana and then transmitting it to Washington and other states.
Gregoire’s position is that she doesn’t want to stand in the way of progress, but wants to make sure the proper environmental and regulatory processes are followed, said spokesman J. Cory Curtis.
In November, Cowlitz County commissioners voted to give Millennium, owned by Australian coal company Ambre Energy, a permit to redevelop the site. However, that decision was appealed last month to the Washington state Shorelines Hearings Board by four environment al groups.
Since then, the state Ecology Department has asked to intervene in the appeal, saying the county should have analyzed greenhouse gas emissions more broadly and not just in the immediate area of the Longview project.
Earlier in the day, Schweitzer met with Cowlitz County commissioners in Kelso and toured the proposed terminal site.