Politics Blog

Another report questions price impact on Gateway Pacific, other coal ports

Global coal prices have dropped from their late 2010 peaks, and some are questioning whether coal ports planned in Whatcom County and elsewhere in the U.S. still make sense. 

Writing in The Oregonian, Rob Davis has an extensive roundup of comment from coal industry people and financial analysts. 

Davis's report also notes that some in the industry are betting that coal prices will rebound in the years ahead, putting West Coast coal ports back in the black, so to speak.

Hat tip to Bob Ferris for this link. 

Reviewing clip files from more than 30 years ago, I found some striking news reports about the last Cherry Point coal rush, when it was Japan rather than China that was supposed to provide a lucrative market for U.S. coal.

Bellingham residents worried about coal trains. Economists wondered whether the market price of coal would really cover the higher development and shipping costs for Powder River Basin coal. The Sierra Club challenged the proposed terminal because of its environmental impacts, even though climate change had not become a burning issue yet. And people who wanted the port to be built complained about the state's permitting process.

The coal port never happened at Cherry Point. Neither did the liquified natural gas plant, the Naval base, or the molybdenum plant. All of these prospects for Cherry Point development came and went in the years just after the big plans for oil rig construction were stopped dead by environmental and regulatory barriers in 1982, when then-Gov. John Spellman vetoed special legislation giving the oil rig project special exceptions from environmental rules.