The 400-acre former Reynolds mill holds tremendous potential for creating jobs and economic opportunity for Cowlitz County. Unfortunately two companies - Millennium and Arch Coal - are planning to build a coal export terminal that will spread coal pollution in Longview and clog the roads with coal trains.Betting on coal export is a double loss - the property remains polluted and no reputable company will bring jobs to the site.
Imagine this on the banks of the Columbia- Westshore, British Columbia Coal Export Facility.
Coal is an unstable and risky commodity
The Port of Vancouver's Operation Manager, Mike Schiller wrote, "coal is the most risky bulk mineral market." The Port Executive Director stated in a Columbian article that "coal facilities have a tendency to come and go."
Perhaps the best judge of whether coal export makes sense are the actions of the Northwest ports themselves.
- Port of Vancouver, WA. The Port rejected a coal export terminal and instead chose a potash terminal because it is a stable commodity. As reported in the Columbian: "Faced with a choice of helping to grow food or feed industry, the Port of Vancouver picked a fertilizer ingredient over the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet."
The Columbian reported:
[Larry] Paulson, the port's executive director, said BHP Billiton [potash] was the ideal tenant, a well-capitalized heavy-hitter that would make a long-term investment in the economy, help the port build up its rail network and create jobs.
A 2008 email from the Port's Operations Manager, Mike Schiller, stated that "coal is the most risky bulk mineral market."
Both shipping giant Kinder Morgan and the Port of Vancouver know a thing or two about bulk the commodities market. They recognize the "fickle market" and the "real danger in losing investment - both in construction capital and lost opportunity in a poorly performing asset.
- Port of Kalama, WA. Kalama rejected a coal export proposal from Millennium in 2010. After failing to gain approval at several publicly-owned ports, Millennium then targeted the Alcoa site in Longview, where a coal export proposal is currently under intense scrutiny. Kalama told Millennium that "after considerable deliberation on the issue, the Port will not be moving forward with plans for a coal export facility."
- Port of Tacoma, WA. The headline says it all: "Tacoma Port torpedoes coal terminal plan." Platts Coal Trader, November 23, 2010. The Port of Tacoma stated that it rejected a large export proposal because of a "multitude of business and community factors." Citizens had strong concerns about the health effects of coal dust and the impact of coal trains.
Coal export has a poor history
The Port of Portland actually built a coal export terminal in the 1980's, but the plan imploded and lost $25 million dollars when the Asian market shifted. In fact, coal exporter terminals proposed at the Port of Kalama, Vancouver, Coos Bay, San Francisco, and Los Angeles all failed due to the shifting Asian market. See the Oregonian, Coal's once bright future goes up in smoke, Feb. 14, 1983. Understanding this history, local ports have repeatedly rejected coal terminals over the last 12 months.
Learn More: Coal Export
Coal Export: A history of failure for western ports