Washington State Wire | News of Capitol Importance, November 21, 2013
By Erik Smith
State officials from coal country are telling Washington regulators they need to watch their step. As a public-comment period finally ends on a Longview coal-terminal project, governors and attorneys general from Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming are putting Washington state on notice that it better not try to block coal shipments to make a not-very-effective statement against global warming.
For one thing, they say it won’t make a whit of difference in the global climate. And for another, they say it is a violation of federal constitutional prohibitions that prevent states from interfering in interstate commerce and usurping federal authority to regulate international trade. You get the idea a legal challenge could be in the offing.
“We are concerned with the law,” Montana Attorney General Tim Fox told Washington State Wire in an interview Wednesday. “We are not concerned with the science or politics of these things. Others can debate. But we just want to make it clear that Montana and North Dakota and Wyoming and every other state that has an interest in shipping commodities to an international market have a concern that interstate commerce not be unconstitutionally interfered with.”
Fox and fellow Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem of North Dakota are among the crowd that offered their two cents on the Longview project, out of an astounding 195,000 public comments that have been offered on the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminal project. Wyoming Gov. Matthew Mead sent a separate letter of his own. But let’s just say that the two letters the state officials mailed to Olympia carry a tad bit more weight than most – they are challenging the legal authority of Washington-state regulators to use the environmental-impact statement process to prevent coal shipments from this state’s waters. And while they don’t come quite out and say it, they are hinting that if the state Department of Ecology jiggers the permitting process in a way that allows Washington to reject a shipping terminal of national significance, an interstate court battle could ensue.