Governor Kitzhaber today called on federal agencies to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the environmental, community, economic, transportation and energy security impacts of proposed coal exports to Asia before proceeding with further permitting and leasing decisions. The Governor released a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and officials at the Bureau of Land Management and Army Corps of Engineers calling for a programmatic and comprehensive environmental impact statement (EIS) and outlined his concerns in a speech to the "Future of Energy" Conference in Portland. The Governor issued the following statement about coal exports:
"Work is currently underway at many locations in Oregon and Washington to secure the necessary approvals for coal export facilities to ship coal from the Powder River basin to Asia. I have concerns about proceeding in this direction in the absence of a full national discussion about the ramifications inherent in this course of action.
The Environmental Impact Statement that the Department of the Interior is currently relying on to issue leases for coal extraction from public lands in the Powder River basin addressed the environmental effects of transport and use of coal in the mid-western and eastern United States for domestic energy production, but it did not evaluate the effects of coal exports to Asia.
The United States has the largest known coal reserves in the world, and currently exports approximately 80-100 million tons of coal each year. The current proposals in Oregon and Washington could result in an additional 157 million tons of coal exports, more than doubling the U.S. export capacity, with all of this increase going to fuel growth in energy production in Asia.
Most of the as-yet unexamined environmental, health, community, economic impacts associated with this tremendous increase in coal transport to the west coast would be shouldered by Oregon and Washington. Further, the environmental effects of further Asian coal-fired generation, in terms of air quality impacts on the west coast of the United States, have not been analyzed. Increases in ozone, mercury, and particulates could have both significant environmental and economic effects in this country, by requiring U.S. industry to adopt additional pollution controls in order to meet air quality standards.
A decision to proceed on this course has profound implications for our nation's energy security; and for the trajectory of the world's transition to cleaner sources of energy. If the United States is going to embark on the large scale export of coal to Asia it is imperative that we ask -- and answer -- the question of how this decision fits into the larger strategy of moving to a lower carbon future. In the lack of a clear policy on this point we will simply be deciding by not deciding. We must consider and balance of all the associated economic, environmental and health problems related to such a course of action for the Pacific Northwest and for our country.
To address these important national and regional concerns, today I have asked the Bureau of Land Management and the Army Corps of Engineers to prepare a full programmatic environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Protection Act to examine the effects of coal transport to the west coast and the use of coal for electricity production in Asia before any further permitting or leasing decisions are made."