By Mead Gruver
January 10, 2019 - Wyoming should continue to fight to enable more U.S. coal exports overseas, the state’s new governor said in a state of the state speech Wednesday that also called for more spending restraint and better returns on state reserve funds.
Republican Mark Gordon criticized permit delays that have prevented significant new coal exports from the Pacific Northwest. He promised more state advocacy on behalf of companies that mine coal.
“Our access to these Asian markets remains restricted, tied up in permit after permit,” Gordon told a joint session of the Legislature. “I believe this to be an unconstitutional restraint of trade.”
The state is the biggest single source of coal for U.S. power plants. Once burned, the coal is among the leading contributors to climate change — a fact pointed out by environmentalists and others who oppose more coal exports.
But technology employed at coal-fired plants recently built in Japan and South Korea can scale back carbon emissions into the atmosphere, Gordon said.
“That is progress that should be a gut cinch for those advocating to control carbon emissions,” Gordon said.
Wyoming and other states have sided in court with Millennium Bulk Terminals, which is suing over the denial of key permits to allow coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana to be exported through Longview. Wendy Hutchinson, a vice president of the company and former member of a Wyoming state environmental review board, attended the state of the state speech at Gordon’s invitation.
Gordon praised Hutchinson’s “perseverance in navigating a complicated, time-consuming and inefficient — perhaps even now adulterated — process of getting permits.”
The state also has supported its coal industry by helping fund a carbon-capture research facility near Gillette, a project Gordon highlighted.
“We in Wyoming are anxious to lead the way to a brighter future, not by following political fashion, but by rolling up our sleeves, doubling down on research and innovation, and solving our world’s energy problems,” Gordon said.
At the same time, hard times in the coal, oil and natural gas industries have sapped state revenue. An October state economic report predicted improving revenue, but oil prices and financial markets have since fallen, Gordon pointed out.
"I want to take a moment to talk about coal. Coal continues to power this country and despite market trends and politics it will remain an essential part of America's portfolio for decades to come. Around the globe, technology keeps advancing. There is progress benefiting our world by burning coal more cleanly and efficiently. Japan and Korea have built more efficient clean burning fleets of coal fired electric generation than have ever been built before. Technologies employed there when paired with Powder River Basin coal can reduce the overall carbon emitted to our atmosphere. That is progress that should be a gut cinch for those advocating to control carbon emissions and yet our access to these Asian markets remains restricted, tied up in permit after permit. I believe this to be an unconstitutional restraint of trade and I'll strongly advocate for access to all markets."
"I have invited my friend and former colleague on Wyoming's Environmental Quality Council , Wendy Hutchinson, to be with us here to today. Wendy has been working for nearly a decade to open a coal port in Longview, Washington. This is a port that will expedite coal exports among other commodities to countries like Japan and Korea. For her efforts last year, Wendy was named one of the top 100 most inspirational women in mining in the world. Wendy, I've asked you here today so we can recognize you and the Millennium Bulk Terminals' perseverance in navigating complicated, time consuming, inefficient, and perhaps even now adulterated process for getting permits. Would you please stand so we can recognize you. Thank you, Wendy."
Mark Gordon (second from right) and others