coal-exports Archives - Shopfloor

Environmental Impact Statement Released for Washington State Export Terminal

By | Energy, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

On Friday, Cowlitz County, Wash., and the Washington Department of Ecology (WDOE) released a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for Millennium Bulk Terminals – Longview, a planned export terminal for coal and other bulk commodities along the Columbia River in Cowlitz County. Today’s EIS was produced by the state and county under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), which is essentially Washington’s version of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the federal environmental policy statute that requires environmental impact analysis of major federal actions affecting the environment. Disputes over the scope of the EIS for this terminal among Cowlitz County, WDOE and the Army Corps of Engineers has led to the production of dual EIS analyses: one produced by the Army Corps, which analyzes site-specific impacts as is traditional practice, and today’s SEPA analysis, which broadens the scope dramatically to include cumulative, lifecycle impacts not only of the terminal but the commodities being shipped through that terminal. It’s an unusual practice to say the least and has had manufacturers concerned for a long time, given the potential precedent that could be set for all exports of manufactured goods.

We’re just now digging into the hundreds (thousands?) of pages making up the SEPA analysis. One area that immediately gives us concern is how the WDOE and Cowlitz County evaluate the greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of the facility and the mitigation measures recommended. This is largely uncharted territory from both a legal and policy standpoint, and one that could have a significant impact on similar analyses in Washington and other states. Manufacturers depend heavily on exports, and conditions placed on one exported product could cascade to other products as well. If those conditions get in the way of trade or unduly delay exports, it could also violate U.S. international treaty obligations under World Trade Organization agreements.

A 45-day comment period is now underway for the Millennium Bulk EIS; comments can be submitted here.

LNG, Coal Exports Could Be Economic Boon to Manufacturing Economy

By | Economy, Energy | No Comments

A study released last week highlighted the enormous economic benefits that could result from exporting a portion of the United States’ abundant supply of natural gas. According the report by ICF International, liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports will create up to 665,000 jobs over the next 20 years, and even non-natural-gas-producing states such as California, New York and Illinois will benefit by seeing income gains between $2.6 – $5.0 billion.   The study identified manufacturing as a major beneficiary of this economic growth:

Of the up to net 77,000 manufacturing jobs generated by LNG exports by 2035, states such as California, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Ohio are expected to see gains of up to 4,600-8,200 in 2035. In addition to the in-state construction and maintenance generating manufacturing jobs for gas-producing states such as Texas and Pennsylvania, out-of-state manufacturing is required for production of steel, cement, and equipment. (Source: ICF International)

Our energy export potential does not end with LNG. Coal exports also have the potential to greatly benefit the economy. According to another study, over 11,000 new jobs and $841 million in wages would be created by the construction of export terminals in the Pacific Northwest. Several companies are seeking permits to widen the capacity of existing bulk terminals in the Pacific Northwest to accommodate the larger-sized vessels that will be traversing the newly-expanded Panama Canal.  Last week, in a speech on the economy in New Orleans, the President explained why this is so necessary:

“Rebuilding our transportation and communications networks is one of the fastest ways to create good jobs. And consider that just a couple of years from now, we’re going to have new supertankers that are going to start coming through the Panama Canal, and these tankers can hold three times as much cargo as today’s. If a port can’t handle those supertankers, they’ll go load and unload cargo somewhere else. So there’s work that we can start doing in terms of dredging and making the passageways deeper, which means the supertankers can have more stuff on them, which means they can unload and load more stuff, which makes this port more competitive. So why wouldn’t we put people to work upgrading them? Why wouldn’t we do that?” (Remarks by President Obama on the Economy, Port of New Orleans, 11/8/13)

Unfortunately, the vast majority of these LNG and coal export projects remain in limbo while waiting for any sign of movement on federal, state and local permits. Manufacturers are disappointed with these continued delays and believe principles of free trade and open markets should govern whether companies can move forward and construct export terminals on U.S. soil.

At a time when manufacturing job growth has been disappointing, LNG and coal exports represent real jobs and real wages for the 7.3% of unemployed Americans. Manufacturers are ready to get to work and hope regulators will make decisions on these permits as soon as possible.

LNG, Coal Terminals Will Boost Exports and Infrastructure Investments

By | Economy, Energy, Infrastructure, Trade | No Comments

Last week President Obama traveled to the Port of New Orleans to talk about the need to upgrade our infrastructure as part of his goal to double U.S. exports by 2015.

Although government investment in upgrading, expanding and modernizing our nation’s transportation network is critical, often lost in this conversation are the numerous ongoing efforts in the private sector to build the infrastructure necessary to increase exports.

Two examples of large-scale projects are liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal export terminals, multi-billion dollar projects that will have a huge impact on not only the local economies but also the national manufacturing economy.

Currently, there are four LNG terminals that have been approved by the Department of Energy, with another twenty or so applications pending.  There are three coal export projects in the Pacific Northwest that are ready to be built, but are waiting for approval on federal, state and local permits.

Manufacturers are frustrated with the delays in considering applications for these projects, and agree with the President’s comments last week when he noted that “the first thing we should do is stop doing things that undermine our business and our economy. It is like the gears of our economy, every time they are just about to take off, someone taps the brakes and says, ‘Not so fast.’”

In order to get our economy moving at full speed we need to appropriately invest in our infrastructure and a big part of that is allowing the private sector to move forward with these projects.

A Tale of Two Stories on Coal Exports

By | Energy | One Comment

Yesterday we saw two very different takes on coal exports in a petition filed by environmental groups, and a study released by the National Mining Association.

Several environmental groups filed a petition with the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) asking them “to evaluate the cumulative and related impacts of all proposed coal export terminals in Oregon and Washington in a single, comprehensive, area-wide environmental impact statement (“EIS”) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Such a process will allow explicit consideration of the collective impacts of multiple distinct but related decisions.” Their message was clear, we don’t want you to do anything that involves fossil fuels.

The National Mining Association (NMA) released a report prepared by Ernst & Young LLP that explored the economic and jobs benefits of coal exports in 2011. The report estimated the economic value of related coal activity at $16.6 billion in 2011. They also estimated that 25,130 jobs or almost 19 percent of those working at coal mines were directly related to coal exports. The report sent an equally clear message, fossil fuels creates economic activity and jobs.

This petition by the environmental groups is an attempt to slow down the permitting process and to kill these export expansion efforts by delaying permits for years and by requiring huge expenditures by the private and public sectors. Expanding environmental review to include all of the Washington and Oregon proposals and their potential cumulative economic and environmental impacts across the region, the United States and the world, would be a drastic policy shift from current practices that would undermine national goals to boost exports.

A Programmatic EIS for coal export projects in the Pacific Northwest would create a major disincentive for manufacturers to export their products, impacting jobs and economic growth. This is exactly the effect these groups hope to have on these projects, and in fact most any other project that involves fossil fuels.

The NAM sent a letter to the Corps in June of 2012 urging them not to expand its NEPA analysis beyond the individual, project-specific review required under the statute. The NAM believes that by expanding this focus to include the environmental impact of the cargo, and all similar cargo transported through the region, the Corps could be laying the foundation for similar exercises for just about any port or rail expansion to transport any type of cargo. For instance, what if the cargo at issue was not coal but cars, or tractors, or even airplanes? Would the Corps need to perform a Programmatic EIS to determine the lifecycle environmental impact of that cargo? What if the cargo was an agricultural or animal product; should methane emissions be considered? The possibilities are endless and deeply troubling to manufacturers and their employees.


We Must Reduce Export Barriers, Not Create New Ones

By | General | No Comments

The President and his advisors have repeatedly stressed that they do not believe they have to choose between the environment and the economy. The governors of Oregon and Washington are not making it easy on him; in fact, that’s precisely the choice they’ve asked him to make on exports. In a letter sent today to the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, the two governors asked for a boundless, limitless, and to our knowledge unprecedented, life cycle impact analysis of five planned coal export terminals and the cargo being transported through them, all before issuing a permit for the first one.

The kind of review they are asking for is Keystone-on-steroids; they want the President to decide whether we should be exporting coal AT ALL before issuing a permit to expand the terminals. Never mind that the ports will ship other products besides coal. Never mind that thousands of high-paying construction jobs are at stake in a region where construction jobs are at their lowest point in a decade. And never mind that such a radical change in the law could be used to block exports of, well, everything.

This last point has manufacturers very concerned. Virtually every product we export, from cars to turbines to planes to grains, has an environmental impact. The already-too-long permitting process for new projects–a process that takes on average 3.4 years–would become completely unmanageable if the law were expanded to require the type of review the two governors are now seeking.

The NAM was created in 1895 because manufacturers needed to find opportunities to export their products. We will continue to fight efforts to erect unnecessary barriers beyond what is required by law.

Ross Eisenberg is vice president of energy and resources policy, National Association of Manufacturers.

Northwest Coal Export Terminals Will Create Jobs

By | Energy, Trade | No Comments

Today marks the last and final scoping meeting in Seattle for the proposed coal export terminals in the Northwest. It is an important chance for community members to stand up for this project before federal and state agencies determine its future.  The meeting will take place at the Washington State Convention Center, Ballroom 6F between 4-7 PM (PST) today.

In Washington State, residents face an 8.5 percent unemployment rate with some of the hardest hit sectors being the local shipping, and construction industries. Residents in the Northwest know they need new jobs opportunities – that is why the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports  is fighting to approve five proposed coal export terminals in the Northwest.

These projects would create thousands of new jobs and generate millions in local tax revenues, adding much-needed funds to state and local budgets for schools and other vital services like emergency responders. This doesn’t include local income tax revenues and other benefits of getting thousands of people back to work in well-paying jobs.

Most Washingtonians are in support of these projects. A public opinion poll released last month by the Brotherhood Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the United Transportation Union, the Oregon State Building, and Construction Trades Council showed that local residents support the planned export terminal by 2 to 1 margin. These results mirror the poll findings from July by Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) that also showed 2 to 1 support for the terminals. Read More