Supreme Court won't hear coal port lawsuit

Gillette News Record staff via Wyoming News Exchange
Posted 6/29/21

Gov. Mark Gordon calls a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to not take up a lawsuit challenging Washington state's denial of a coal export terminal "extremely frustrating."

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Supreme Court won't hear coal port lawsuit


GILLETTE – Gov. Mark Gordon calls a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to not take up a lawsuit challenging Washington state's denial of a coal export terminal "extremely frustrating."

The decision by the high court was announced Monday, and Wyoming's governor was quick to respond.

"It is extremely frustrating that the U.S. Supreme Court failed to grant a hearing on the critical issue that this case raised," Gordon said in a press release. "At some point, the nation will have to figure out whether it expects to grow business or just restrict it."

Wyoming has been among a handful of states pushing to overturn numerous efforts by Washington's governors and lawmakers to kill proposals to build a coal export terminal that would provide access for U.S. coal producers to Asian markets.

Former Gov. Matt Mead, and now Gordon, have long argued in federal courts that the denial of a coal port violates federal laws prohibiting states from interfering in commerce conducted by other states.

Although the denials have centered around a proposal to build a port in Longview, Washington, "this case was never about a single permit or product," Gordon said.

"It was about the ability of one state to engage in lawful interstate commerce without the interference of another state," he said. "Today it is coal, tomorrow it could be agricultural products or any of our state's abundant natural resources."

As the market for domestic thermal coal continues to shrink at an accelerated pace, Wyoming's Powder River Basin has seen its coal production slashed to less than half of what it was a decade ago.

Those Asian markets — particularly Japan, which has committed to building a host of new coal-fired power plants — have long been a target as a critical market for Wyoming's low-sulfer, high-btu coal.

"From Day One of my administration, I have fought to protect Wyoming's abilities to bring its commodities to market, be it coal, trona or any of our state's products," Gordon said. "I remain committed to continuing our efforts to export clean coal to assist countries in meeting their energy needs and climate goals."

In a May filing with the U.S. Supreme Court, the federal government argued that Wyoming's lawsuit over the coal port was moot because the Millennium Bulk Terminal project was dead after its parent company, Lighthouse Resources, declared bankruptcy and no longer planned to build the terminal.

Wyoming, Montana and other states have argued that Washington State's denial was fueled by an anti-fossil fuels agenda and not a specific project and that the challenge should go through.

"One state should not weaponize a water quality statute inappropriately to deny other states the ability to conduct interstate commerce," Gordon said in response to the federal filing.

On Monday, the governor hinted that Wyoming may have lost a battle, but not the legal war over coal exports.

"At some point, the Supreme Court is going to need to take on this matter," he said.