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State Action on Coal



Since the Trump Administration is going to SAVE COAL!!!, I wonder how it will respond to the western states refusing to allow coal development in the ports required to ship it overseas.

Washington state dealt a blow Tuesday to the last remaining coal export terminal proposed along the West Coast, throwing the viability of the project into question.

The state will not allow the developer to build the terminal’s loading docks on state-owned land, outgoing Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark announced, citing the developer’s failure to answer questions about the structure of the loading dock, as well as questions about the overall financial viability of the project. Last year, Arch Coal — a minority stakeholder in the project — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after slumping coal production.

The land is currently leased by Northwest Alloys, which had requested a permit from the Washington Department of Natural Resources to lease the land to Millennium Bulk Terminal, the developer behind the proposed export terminal.

Goldmark’s decision is yet another blow to the future of fossil fuel exports along the West Coast, which was once viewed as the gateway between the coal mines of Montana and Wyoming and the coal markets of Asia. In 2010, the West Coast had six proposed coal export terminals, which combined could have handled 100 million tons of coal annually. But staunch community opposition, combined with declining coal consumption worldwide, have made those projects less and less viable in recent years.

Today, the Longview terminal is the last remaining coal export terminal proposed along the West Coast — making it a crucial target both for environmental activists opposed to expanding fossil fuel infrastructure and for fossil fuel and labor interests, who argue the terminal would bring much-needed economic stimulus to an area of Washington plagued with chronically high levels of unemployment.

Due to the scope of the project, the terminal would require approval at several levels — city, state, and federal — to ultimately move forward. The Washington Department of Ecology is currently working on the final version of its Environmental Impact Statement, which is expected to be released sometime in the coming year. If approved, the first phase of the terminal could come online as early as 2020.

I’m sure Rick Perry will have a brilliant solution to this barrier to coal domination of America if he can remember which federal agency he heads.

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  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    Well at least we’d get to see that Republicans are as committed to federalism as they are to ethics and balanced budgets.

    • Breadbaker

      And as much as they’re committed to local control of health care decisions except when those decisions involve women’s bodies in a way that diminishes their control of them.

  • They can build it, but there won’t be any market for the product. That could be a problem.

    • Says Bloomberg:

      “Solar power is now cheaper than coal in some parts of the world. In less than a decade, it’s likely to be the lowest-cost option almost everywhere.

      In 2016, countries from Chile to the United Arab Emirates broke records with deals to generate electricity from sunshine for less than 3 cents a kilowatt-hour, half the average global cost of coal power. Now, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Mexico are planning auctions and tenders for this year, aiming to drop prices even further. Taking advantage: Companies such as Italy’s Enel SpA and Dublin’s Mainstream Renewable Power, who gained experienced in Europe and now seek new markets abroad as subsidies dry up at home.

      Since 2009, solar prices are down 62 percent, with every part of the supply chain trimming costs. That’s help cut risk premiums on bank loans, and pushed manufacturing capacity to record levels. By 2025, solar may be cheaper than using coal on average globally, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.”

    • A chart of the world export coal price to 2015. This is for Newcastle, Australia, but coal is a simple commodity so there will only be minor variations elsewhere. 2016 has seen massive cancellations of coal generating projects in many countries and further falls in Chinese and US coal consumption. India has recently frozen new coal generating projects, beyond those under construction, until 2022 and probably forever. It plans to phase out imports entirely. I’m surprised the Washington export terminal is still being promoted. Where’s the money?

  • Davis X. Machina

    How does exporting Powder River Basin coal more cheaply help Appalachian coal miners?

    It doesn’t even make the owners of those mountain top and underground hard coal mines rich, unless they’re integrated, nationwide, companies — and then they’re going to continue to abandon Eastern coal, which isn’t cost-competitive in the export market to begin with.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      The only profitable, sustainable, way forward for Eastern hard coal mines is to diversify into small-batch artisanal coal. Lovingly mined, cleaned, selected and curated for use in Appalachian Trump voters Christmas stockings.

      There’s going to be a YOOOGE market for it, I hear.

      • Davis X. Machina

        Heh. I actually do buy a couple of 50 pound bags of artisanal PA anthracite — uniform size, washed and oiled to keep the dust down — at a premium every year for an old stove in an otherwise-unheated workspace.

        (Should really go pellet, because Maine biomass, etc, but the stove is paid for — came with the barn.)

    • Jackdaw

      PRB coal production is significantly down also, and people involved in its supply chain anecdotally (I grew up there and see friends’ Facebook comments) also blame Obama’s “War on Coal” for the decline.

    • Bruce Vail

      Appalachian coal isn’t dead yet.

      About 20 million tons exported through the three main terminals at Hampton Roads in 2016:


    • D. C. Sessions

      Appalachian coal actually has no real substitute — in iron and steel production. So the first step in bringing back Appalachian coal is to bring back Pittsburgh steel. Shouldn’t cost more than a few hundred billion to make the US steel industry competitive again, once we revive the US industries that use lots of steel such as auto bodies etc. That shouldn’t take more than a few trillions.

      Of course, the private sector won’t be spending that money because they can get their steel and the things made from it elsewhere at low enough prices that they investment would never pay for itself. It’ll have to be publicly financed by the Federal government. Infant industries and all that, you know. How to pay for it? Probably by getting rid of Social Security and Medicare.

      Well, that’s the consequence of Democrats foolishly scrapping the manufacturing industries in favor of the coastal big-finance elites.

  • Since the Trump Administration is going to SAVE COAL!!!, I wonder how it will respond to the western states refusing to allow coal development in the ports required to ship it overseas.

    Why, it will build the terminal anyway and force the states to pay for it. Build that terminal! Build that terminal!

  • Crusty

    Does anyone here watch the Affair on Showtime?

    MINOR SPOILER ALERT. Avert your eyes if you give a shit.

    Anyway, this past week, there was a character from Noah’s hometown, a rural town in Pennsylvania, who worked in a coal plant and was a bitter, nasty guy, who always resented and felt condescended to by Noah for his daring to leave town for college and attempting to become a writer. Seemed a little on the nose as a Trump voter.

  • thebewilderness

    Here is a map that shows some of the Federal lands they could sell or lease for the coal terminal.

    • ColBatGuano

      The real problem is that you have to put a rail line into the site and that line has to run multiple huge trains a day. No one wants that in their backyard.

  • Bill Murray

    The current plan for coal areas is to recover rare earth metals from coal and coal by-products but not post-combustion ash or gasification ash/char. Coal by-product here would mean overburden, underlying materials, acid-mine drainage sludge, partings/sediments associated with seams and coal prep plant refuse. I assume the no post-combustion materials is to avoid the temptation to keep using coal as a power source.

    DoE is hoping to have a modular, plug-and-play process within probably 3 years that can be setup easily at a variety of sites to process many types of coal with a variety of rare earth minerals and mineral distribution within the coal and by-products.

    • So, maybe something that might work on a pilot scale and could never be used at a large one, in time for Trump’s re-election campaign. I suspect that by then the Appalachian ex-miners will be less susceptible to fairy dust. Trump would be well-advised to avoid the region to ensure his physical safety.

      • BigHank53

        Not to worry–there aren’t many airports in Appalachia that can handle his jet, so there’s little risk he’ll ever venture there.

  • D. C. Sessions

    I’m sure Rick Perry will have a brilliant solution to this barrier to coal domination of America if he can remember which federal agency he heads.

    Coal price supports? The Federal Government will just buy coal and stockpile it underground.

    • Deggjr


  • Deggjr

    The Germans created synthetic fuel from coal during WWII. I’m always surprised this never gets discussed.

    There must be production cost issues and maybe environment issues too. However synthetic fuel from coal would address so many serious problems.

    • Redwood Rhiadra

      The cost of synthetic fuel from coal is REALLY high. One source I found said it’s competitive with gasoline from oil at a price of THIRTY-SEVEN DOLLARS A GALLON.

      In other words, you have to be *really* desperate for gas to go the synthetic fuel route. Nazi Germany was (since by that point the Allies had completely cut them off from oil sources.) And apartheid South Africa also built a number of plants, because they too were embargoed.

      In other words, the only problem it addresses is if the rest of the world refuses to sell you oil. AND you have a lot of coal.

  • Aaron Morrow

    Would a Trump ban on US fracking help Putin’s oil and natural gas interests?

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