Wyo. lawmakers float bill to sue Wash. over terminal blockade

Source: Dylan Brown, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, February 12, 2018

Wyoming lawmakers want to sue the state of Washington for blocking construction of a proposed export terminal that would ship their state’s coal overseas.

A group of Republican state House members led by Natrona County Rep. Chuck Gray sponsored H.B. 123 to authorize and fund a lawsuit over the Millennium Bulk Terminals in Longview, Wash.

Last year, Washington regulators denied several permits for the 44-million-ton coal shipping facility. Contested environmental analysis found “unavoidable and negative” impacts from construction at the former aluminum smelter site on the banks of the Columbia River (E&E News PM, Oct. 26, 2017).

Lighthouse Resources Inc. — the coal company backing the Millennium project that has Wyoming mines — sued Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s government for violating the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause (E&E News PM, Jan. 3).

The Wyoming bill makes the same case that Washington “unconstitutionally” interfered with interstate and international commerce.

Wyoming lawmakers are currently grappling with a massive budget deficit due, in no small part, to the recent coal industry collapse.

Despite the budget shortfall, the bill would set aside $250,000 for a “coal export terminal litigation account.”

“Proper prosecution of a lawsuit to recover damages or obtain declaratory relief … is necessary to prevent further harm of serious magnitude to the economic and proprietary interests of the state of Wyoming,” the bill states.

Coal companies and leaders in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana have looked to coal exports as a way to resuscitate demand, but the Millennium Bulk Terminals are the only remaining project (Greenwire, Jan. 17).

If Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael (R) opts not to file a lawsuit, Campbell County Rep. Scott Clem said the bill is “another mechanism if we need to go to court to try to market one of our great products here in Wyoming.”

“I represent many coal miners and people who work in the industry here in my district,” Clem said. “And really what we’ve seen is time and time again roadblocks set up in the way of the coal market.”