- Associated Press - Monday, May 18, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Faced with sliding domestic demand for coal, the governor of Wyoming has kept pressing for access to deep-water ports in the Northwest that would allow exports to Asian markets.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead met Monday with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in Olympia and plans to meet Tuesday with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.

“I wanted to get out here and talk to these two governors,” Mead said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

“If there are practical issues as well that we could help work through - everything from train traffic to train congestion, to issues of coal dust - we want to do our part in any way we can to help address the issues of concern to these two states,” Mead said.

The stakes are high for Wyoming - the nation’s leading coal-producing state - to find new markets. The state Infrastructure Authority released a study in March that predicts stricter federal regulations could force a decline of up to 45 percent in Powder River Basin coal production by 2030.

The Wyoming Legislature this year authorized issuing up to $1 billion in state bonds if necessary to finance coal port construction.

Wyoming has run into stiff opposition from environmentalists and state officials in the Northwest so far in its efforts to secure access to deep-water ports.

Many in the Northwest don’t welcome the process of heavy train traffic that would be necessary to move millions of tons of coal through their states. They also don’t like the thought of enabling foreign nations to burn more coal even as the United States clamps down on emissions from coal-fired plants at home.

Mead said he and Inslee have different points of view on climate change. While many scientists have concluded that burning coal and other fossil fuels contributes to global warming, Mead has said he’s skeptical that human activities are to blame.

Mead in 2013 asked the White House to disregard pressure from Washington state and Oregon to evaluate the effects of greenhouse gases that would be emitted by exporting U.S. coal to Asia from ports in the Northwest.

Mead on Monday toured a potential coal port site near Longview, Washington.

State and federal regulators are carrying out parallel environmental reviews of a proposal by Millennium Bulk Terminals - Longview LLC to ship coal from the site of the former Reynolds Aluminum smelter in Cowlitz County.

Draft studies on the company’s proposal to ship up to 44 million metric tons annually are set to be completed this fall. The review by Washington regulators is looking beyond the Longview site itself to consider the global effect of increased burning of coal.

Mead last visited the Longview site last June and said he met with company officials again on Monday.

“I feel better about where they are, they’re definitely on the right path,” Mead said of company officials. “They feel that if the law is followed, that they’re going to be successful about getting that port opened.”

Wyoming and Montana have appealed last year’s decision by Oregon regulators denying an energy company’s application for another coal-loading station on the Columbia River at Port of Morrow.

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