Environmentalists brace for Trump rules for fossil fuels – Billings Gazette, Dec. 2, 2016
By Tom Lutey
Environmentalists from Montana to British Columbia are bracing for changes in fossil fuel policy under the Trump presidency.
Representatives from three Western states and Canada said Wednesday that they expect new momentum for coal and oil shipping ports, pipelines and mining.
Bozeman resident Beth Kaeding, a past chairman of the Northern Plains Resource Council, said she hoped president-elect Donald Trump wouldn’t end the federal government’s suspension of coal leasing. The Department of the Interior banned new leases earlier this year so it could determine whether federal coal was being leased at a fair price.
“Regardless of whether this moratorium continues under the next administration, the market for coal, both domestically and internationally, will continue to act as a moratorium on coal sales,” Kaeding said. “Coal is no longer the cheapest energy source in this country or anywhere else in the world. Coal is being supplanted by cheap natural gas, cheap reliable and newly expanding sources of energy like wind and solar and also by weaker than expected demand for coal in Asia.”
Trump called climate change a hoax
Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, has promised to advance the development of coal, oil and gas in the United States. He’s also promised to roll back key environmental policies of President Barack Obama, including the Clean Power Plan, a landmark rule to curb greenhouse gasses from coal-fired power plants.
Kaeding warned of an increasing number of coal trains traveling between the Powder River Basin and Puget Sound, where Montana and Wyoming coal is placed on ships bound for South Korea and Japan.
Other speakers said they were concerned about coal and oil shipping ports on the Columbia River and Puget Sound. Canadian representatives said a new pipeline from the Alberta oil tar sands to Vancouver could be pumping 190,000 barrels of tar sands oil to Puget Sound for shipping.
The expectations of Kaeding, along with representatives from Columbia Riverkeeper, Stand.earth and Stand Up to Oil, matched those of Western coal and oil companies. Cloud Peak Energy told the Associated Press after the election that climate politics would persist and that the coal industry would have to work in that framework. But the expectation was that the Trump administration would be kinder to coal than President Obama.
Despite jump, coal has a long haul ahead
Coal stocks have jumped since Trump’s election. Westmoreland Coal Co., which mines coal at the Absaloka Mine for the Crow Tribe and also at Rosebud Mine for the Colstrip Power Plant, has seen its stock rise 38 percent since Election Day.
But there are strong headwinds for fossil fuels. Just as the public comment period wrapped up for a Longview, Wash., port for Powder River Basin Coal, the Environmental Protection Agency called for the tossing of a favorable 3,000-page study of the project prepared by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The Army Corps was going to rule on the coal port next summer. Environmentalists on Thursday said they would apply pressure at the state level to make developing the coal port difficult. Similar applications of local law to protect fisheries were cited as tools for stopping coal and oil shipping ports in Puget Sound.