Our Response to the Trump Administration

The Northwest’s Rebuttal to President Trump’s Dirty Fossil Fuel Agenda

By Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director, Columbia Riverkeeper



Beacon Rock, by Nicole Mark
Photo by Nicole Mark.

President Trump promises to ramp up dirty fossil fuel production, but federal apathy about pollution and climate change doesn’t mean we have to go backwards for the next four years. We can’t afford to. The Northwest offers a leading model for tackling weighty environmental issues without going to D.C.
Case in point: the Washington Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) January 3rd decision to reject the nation’s largest coal export terminal, Millennium Bulk Terminals at Longview, Washington. The DNR decided that a dirty coal export terminal is a bad fit and refused to lease state-owned land on the Columbia River. Tribes, local governments, and hundreds of thousands of people called on state officials to exercise their regulatory muscle and reject coal export terminals. The State of Washington listened.

It’s no surprise that a state-level decision halted the Millennium coal export proposal — even though federal environmental laws also applied to the project. For years, coalitions like Power Past Coal and Stand Up to Oil have built campaigns that focus on local and state elected officials instead of far-off federal bureaucrats. Local and state officials are more accountable, accessible, and responsive to the needs of Northwest communities. And these officials often have more flexibility than federal regulators to outright deny fossil fuel export proposals.

Here are just a few examples of state and local governments protecting what people in the Northwest value:

  • In 2016, the Portland City Council banned all new and expanded fossil fuel export facilities, and the Vancouver City Council banned oil export terminals.
  • In 2016 and before, Clatsop County and Warrenton, Oregon, rejected Oregon LNG’s applications to build a natural gas pipeline and an LNG export terminal, respectively, in the Columbia River Estuary.
  • In 2016, the Port of Longview rejected Waterside Energy’s proposal to build a crude oil refinery and a propane-by-rail export terminal in Longview, Washington.
  • In 2016, Wasco County, Oregon, denied Union Pacific’s proposal to significantly expand rail traffic like oil trains in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
  • In 2014, the Oregon Department of State Lands rejected Ambre Energy’s plans for a coal export terminal on the Columbia River at the Port of Morrow.

Our resolution for 2017: continue to focus on state and local decisionmakers. Major decisions loom. Washington’s Governor Inslee will decide whether to allow Tesoro to build the nation’s largest oil-by-rail export terminal in Vancouver, Washington. State legislatures will address the threats of oil-by-rail and terminals. Oregon’s Department of Energy will decide whether to allow Portland General Electric to replace a 500-megawatt coal-fired power plant with 1,300 megawatts of gas-fired power generation. Washington state and Cowlitz County will decide whether to allow a corporation backed by the Chinese government to build the world’s largest natural gas-to-methanol refinery on the banks of the Columbia in Kalama. Oregon and Washington will decide whether to pass legislation to advance clean energy. We will continue to support and encourage our local and state leaders to stand up for clean water, clean air, and clean energy in the Pacific Northwest.

This feature was originally published in
River Currents 2017 Issue 1 Newsletter - Read it Now

In this issue: Member Stories, Fighting for Clean Water in the Age of Trump, You Have What it Takes to Beat Big Coal, Why We Are Suing Scott Pruitt, and more.