Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber wants an extensive federal government review of exporting coal to Asia through Northwest ports, saying coal export could clog barge and train routes, increase diesel and coal dust pollution and boost amounts of toxic mercury drifting back to Oregon when Asian countries burn coal.
Kitzhaber, a Democrat with strong ties to environmental groups that oppose coal export, requested the comprehensive review in a letter Wednesday to the Bureau of Land Management and the Army Corps of Engineers today. He also called for the review in a broader speech on “clean energy” today before the Future Energy Conference in Portland.
Kitzhaber didn’t take a stand for or against exporting coal, which supporters say would increase rural jobs and tax revenues.
Instead, his letter asked the federal government to address how increasing exports to Asia will “fit with the larger strategy of moving to a lower carbon future.”
“We’re rushing to this huge infrastructure investment without a full national discussion,” Kitzhaber said after the speech. “I think we deserve to have a full debate on this.”
Many industry analysts say Asian countries will simply buy coal from elsewhere if the United States stifles exports; others argue that a U.S. export binge will tamp down international prices, making it easier for Asia to rely on coal to generate electricity instead of cleaner sources.