Friday, September 28, 2012

US House Passes Coal Protection Bill

HR 3409, a group of bills that could affect the status of numerous coal terminal projects in the Pacific Northwest if it becomes law, has passed the US House of Representatives on a 233-175 vote.

The five bills, informally known as the “Stop the War on Coal Act,” are sponsored by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) and were approved by the House Sept. 21. They include provisions to prevent the Interior Department from instituting new coal mining regulations that could harm the industry until at least Dec. 31, 2013, plus push back EPA Clean Air Act regulations.

One lawmaker, Congressman Peter Defazio (D-OR) lobbied to have the bill amended to include a study to examine the impacts that coal dust can have as its being transported. The amendment, which was blocked by the Republican majority, would have required the US Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a report to Congress about fugitive coal dust within six months of the bill’s passage.

Opponents in Washington and Oregon claim the dust is one of the primary reasons they are trying to put the brakes on numerous proposals to import coal from inland states by train and then ship it to countries in Asia.

Among the largest coal export proposals is at the Port of Longview, where Millennium Bulk Terminals has applied for permits to build a $600 million terminal in a bid to become one of the biggest coal exporters in North America.

Several of the other larger coal export related port expansions are also now undergoing the formal permitting process, including Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point in Washington state; Kinder Morgan Terminals at St. Helen’s, Oregon; and Coyote Island Terminal at the Port of Morrow.

Now that HR 3409 has passed the House, it goes on to the Democrat-controlled Senate for a vote.