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WY Coal Shipping to China? Groups Float Second Thoughts

December 16, 2010

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - As demand for coal has eased in the U.S., it's risen overseas, specifically in China. And plans are underway to ship coal to Asia from Wyoming and Montana, with construction recently approved for a new export terminal in Washington State. The Sierra Club and other groups are challenging that decision because of environmental concerns, with their attorney, Jan Hasselman of Earthjustice, arguing that the terminal should serve other purposes.

"We should be using that facility for light industrial use, manufacturing, to build things that we can send to China, rather than exporting our natural resources."

An appeal has been filed with Washington State authorities, asking that the building permit be set aside until there is a full review of possible health and environmental effects. The developer says the terminal will include equipment to control coal dust.

Hasselman says there are other implications to consider, too, such as whether it's right for Montana and Wyoming to be contributing to China's air pollution problems linked to the burning of coal.

"Americans have decided that they don't want to build new coal plants here at home."

Coal companies have pointed out that new markets for existing coal mining are critical to sustain coal jobs, which are considered good-paying positions.

Besides the Sierra Club, the coalition includes Climate Solutions, Columbia Riverkeeper, and the Washington Environmental Council. The appeal has been filed before the Washington State Shoreline Hearings Board.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - WY