U.S. Representatives Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo) and Denny Rehberg (R-MT), both strong supporters of Powder River Basin (PRB) coal production, earned the backing of 56 bipartisan members of Congress in a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Department of Interior (DOI) urging them to reject calls of an unprecedented expansion of environmental reviews for coal exports. The letter urges the agencies to resist pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some elected officials and environmental groups to expand environmental reviews for port projects in the Pacific Northwest to well beyond what current law requires. These environmental impact studies, required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and in the case of port projects, conducted by the Army Corp of Engineers, are intended to study the environmental impacts of the projects themselves. Instead, the EPA and others are asking DOI and the Corps to speculate on the life-cycle impacts of coal -- from extraction, to transport, to eventual usage in Asia -- all for single port projects.
The EPA's request, which appears to be an attempt to block coal exports, is the latest salvo in the Administration's war on coal. The EPA's effort to block coal exports from Oregon and Washington ports compromises thousands of American jobs in construction, railway transport, and mining, and blocks huge economic benefits to port communities. Further, it sets a dangerous precedent that coal exports from the east or south could also be subjected to an unrealistic and unachievable set of environmental reviews.
"In a country in need of jobs, expanding export operations on the West Coast seems like a no-brainer," Rep. Lummis said. "But this Administration clearly has another agenda. An expansion of environmental review like the kind EPA has requested is unrealistic and unnecessary. Environmental reviews on a project's specific impact are important, but we cannot allow federal bureaucrats to meander into fantasy speculation. Make no mistake, Asia will get PRB coal one way or another because demand continues to grow. So it defies explanation that the Obama Administration would work to ensure American workers cannot benefit from that demand"
The letter, dated June 21, was authored by Lummis and Rehberg, and signed by 56 bipartisan members of the House of Representatives, including 4 Committee Chairmen.