CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead heads to Washington state next week to push for access to ocean ports to allow export of Wyoming coal to Asia even as many politicians and residents in the Northwest voice increasing concern about the effects of burning coal on global warming.
Mead, a Republican who says he's skeptical global warming is caused by humans, has made trade missions to Asia and is eager to start exports from Wyoming, the nation's leading coal-producing state.
Wyoming is casting about for new international coal markets in the face of flagging domestic demand. New coal plant construction in the United States has sputtered to a halt, sandbagged by the combination of cheap natural gas and tough new federal coal emissions standards.
"Expanding markets for Wyoming products is a priority I have engaged for some time," Mead said Wednesday. "I know about the demand in South Korea, Taiwan and Japan for our coal. Increasing exports, including coal, will lead to economic growth and more jobs."
Mead intends to be in Washington state next Tuesday and Wednesday to meet with legislators and business leaders and to tour the Millennium Bulk Terminals, a planned coal port on the Columbia River near Longview, Washington.
Renny MacKay, spokesman for Mead, said Wednesday the governor doesn't intend to visit on the trip with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat who has expressed concerns about the prospect of exporting coal to Asia through his state. MacKay said the two governors have discussed the coal export issue at past meetings.
Inslee said recently he wants to wean electrical utilities in his state entirely off of coal-generated electricity from plants in Wyoming and Montana.
Inslee's office stated Wednesday that Mead hadn't asked for a meeting with Inslee and that Inslee had learned of Mead's trip to Washington on Wednesday. "Gov. Inslee has been clear that his focus for Washington is creating jobs in the clean energy economy while combating carbon pollution," said Jaime Smith of the governor's office.
Last year, Inslee and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber asked the White House to require a full examination of the effect on global air quality of shipping up to 140 million tons of coal a year from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana overseas. Noting the coal exports could result in 240 million tons per year of carbon dioxide emissions, the Democratic governors wrote it is "hard to conceive that the federal government would ignore the inevitable consequences of coal leasing and coal export."
In response, Mead fired off a letter to the White House of his own last year, saying it would be inappropriate to try to stretch federal environmental laws to encompass an analysis of what would happen in other countries half-way around the world. MacKay said Mead hasn't received a response.