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Jun-19-2013 18:18printcomments

Seattle Mayor Fights Coal Exports, Industry Proponents Cry Foul

Acting Chief of the Regulatory Program for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jennifer Moyer said the agency will not conduct an expanded Environmental Impact State despite a petition from environmental groups in the northwest seeking further study.

MCGINN: More coal production yields more pollution.
MCGINN: More coal production yields more pollution.

(SEATTLE) - Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn told members of the U.S. House subcommittee on power and energy Tuesday that coal exports in Washington state would pollute water and air and decrease the quality of life for residents.

Coal advocates say McGinn’s comments are off the mark.

McGinn said elected officials and tribal leaders in Washington and Oregon oppose three planned coal export terminals in Cherry Point, Wash., Longview, Wash. and Boardman, Ore.

The House subcommittee held the hearing, U.S. Energy Abundance: Regulatory, Market, and Legal Barriers to Export, to address barriers that exist to exporting coal and natural gas. Witnesses included representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Mining Association president and CEO Harold Quinn and other industry and environmental experts.

The fight against coal exports has elevated in the Pacific Northwest, with many elected officials opposing or calling for more environmental reviews of the planned terminals.

McGinn talked about concerns over the impact of coal on climate change, and also said the projects are not the kind of jobs Seattle wants.

“We should be exporting our green technology, not coal,” he said. “They’ll hurt us economically. We need better ways to create jobs.”

Toward the hearing’s end, U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-West Virginia, rebuffed the mayor, asking him when he’s up for re-election. McGinn is running for re-election this year, with a primary in August.

“So that makes a good photo-op for you, doesn’t it?,” asked McKinley, representative of a state where coal exports make up a large portion of the economy.

McKinley had earlier questioned where the future of coal exports was going.

“The war on coal continues in Washington (D.C.),” he said. “If we don’t sell it to them, won’t they find it somewhere else?”

The Alliance for Northwest Jobs, which represents 40 organizations and 400,000 workers and employees, say McGinn is ignoring the truth.

Lauri Hennessey, the group’s spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement:

    In his testimony, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn offers unsubstantiated facts and ignores the truth that surveys show that the vast majority of Washington state voters support the development of new bulk commodity terminals at existing ports.

    These ports would ship coal — but also grain, timber, alumina and other commodities — in the process creating thousands of new jobs and generating millions in needed revenue for school and other social services. Trade has been a key pillar of the Northwest economy for decades, and four out of ten jobs in Washington state depend on it. These projects will ensure Washington ports remain competitive.

    The Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports, which includes business and labor, manufacturers and agricultural producers, support these projects because they will provide a needed boost to the regional economy, enhance our global trade competitiveness, and be subject to rigorous government environmental review that ensure they meet the Northwest’s strong commitment to the environment.

During the hearing, Acting Chief of the Regulatory Program for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jennifer Moyer said the agency will not conduct an expanded Environmental Impact State despite a petition from environmental groups in the northwest seeking further study.

“When considered in accordance with the laws and regulations discussed above, many of the activities of concern to the public, such as rail traffic, coal mining, shipping coal outside of U.S. territory and the ultimate burning of coal overseas, are outside the Corps’ control and responsibility for the permit applications related to the proposed projects,” she said.

Coal advocates took this as a win.

“We are gratified by the Corps’ decision. Deviating from existing regulations would have set a dangerous precedent for all employers and created a chilling effect for our state’s economy,” Don Brunell, president for the Association of Washington Business said in an emailed statement from Alliance for Northwest Jobs. “It is important to note that these shipping terminal projects are already subject to exhaustive environmental review before they can be permitted and, once in operation, they must comply with more than a dozen state and federal environmental laws. Today’s decision ensures that we will continue to have both a healthy environment and good jobs in the Pacific Northwest.”

Contact Shelby Sebens at




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