- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead continued his trade mission to the Northwest on Tuesday, emphasizing to the governor of Oregon that the future of Wyoming’s coal industry requires getting access to deep-water ports to allow exports to Asian markets.

Mead’s meeting with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown followed his meeting Monday with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Mead is a Republican while both other governors are Democrats.

Oregon and Washington have been cool to the prospect of allowing the heavy train traffic necessary to haul millions of tons of coal annually to ocean ports from the huge mines in the Powder River Basin, straddling the border between Wyoming and Montana.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press before heading back to Wyoming, Mead said Tuesday he met with Brown in Portland.

“I don’t know that we’re on the same page with regard to coal, but she gave me a good amount of time and was very cordial and listened to what I had to say,” Mead said.

Wyoming is the nation’s leading coal-producing state. However, lower natural gas prices and increasingly stiffer federal emissions regulations are driving down domestic demand and leaving the state under pressure to find new markets.

Mead said he and Brown agreed not to discuss the state of Wyoming’s pending appeal of a decision by Oregon regulators to deny an application to build a coal terminal at the Port of Morrow, on the Columbia River.

Wyoming and Montana have appealed the decision by the Oregon Department of State Lands denying the Port of Morrow application. A hearing is set early next year.

Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, an Oregon-based environmental group, said Tuesday that he’s confident Oregon’s denial of the permit application submitted by a subsidiary of Ambre Energy will withstand the legal challenge.

Columbia Riverkeeper, the Sierra Club and several Indian tribes have entered the appeal to argue for upholding Oregon’s permit denial.

“Nothing has changed,” VandenHeuvel said. “Oregon denied the Ambre Energy coal terminal because of the impact to the Columba river and salmon. And I don’t see how that is going to change based on political visits.”

Mead on Monday toured a potential coal port site near Longview, Washington. State regulators there are considering the global effects of allowing exports through the planned facility.

State officials in Oregon and Washington have said any analysis of exports needs to look at the prospect of ultimately burning coal in Asia and the effect on global climate change.

Mead, however, said he believes Wyoming has a right under interstate commerce to export coal. And he said exporting low-sulfur coal from Wyoming could ultimately reduce emissions in Asia because it would supplant dirtier coal that otherwise would be burned.

Mead said he told Brown that Wyoming believes that proposed export facilities need to be considered through the normal environmental impact statement process.

“But when you start getting into this global impact, then that causes us some heartburn because I think it’s difficult to measure,” he said.

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