NO, the Coal Won’t Just Go To Canada

Sightline Institute research into this recurring argument for why the Pacific Northwest should build ports to export coal, i.e. it will get exported anyway through Canada so the US should grab the jobs and economic benefits for itself, shows this to be a spurious argument.  Read the full Sightline analysis.   Here is some of what they say:

At a Seattle Town Hall forum last week, SSA Marine VP Bob Watters’ claimed again—and despite much evidence to the contrary—that it doesn’t matter whether his firm builds a huge coal terminal near Bellingham. According to this theory, if Oregon and Washington communities don’t ship the coal then British Columbia ports will simply export it instead.

But it’s not true.

Coal industry leaders themselves—along with top analysts and journalists—agree that Canadian ports have nowhere near enough capacity to handle the staggering volumes planned for export from the Northwest states. Industry experts have repeatedly said that new terminals would mean dramatic increases in coal shipping. For example:

Canadian ports are actually at full capacity. A lot of the contracts, at least for the recent expansion proposals, have been for Canadian coal to be exported… I talked to the head of the Westshore Terminal, actually, and he told me that they are already contracted and that it’s not going to be American coal.

– Ashley Ahearn, coal export journalist, KUOW Public Radio at “EarthFix Seattle Coal Export Panel,” February 13, 2013.

At present, there is limited terminal capacity for the export of PRB coal to foreign markets. Our access to existing and any future terminal capacity may be adversely affected by regulatory and permit requirements, environmental and other legal challenges, public perceptions and resulting political pressures, operational issues at terminals and competition among North American coal producers for access to limited terminal capacity, among other factors.

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