True Colors: Ambre Is Not Green

Millennium Bulk Terminals, a subsidiary of Australian company Ambre Energy Limited, received preliminary approval from Cowlitz County to create a coal export terminal in Longview, Washington, U.S., in November, 2009.  The original plan was for a facility that would handle five million tons of coal per year.  New information, as of February, 2011, reveals that Millennium knowingly choose to not reveal future plans to expand the facility to 20 or even 60 tons per year.

Longview is on the north bank of the Columbia River and the port facility has been used since World War II.  Millennium's plans to expand the facility include environmental clean-up and should provide for 70 full-time jobs under normal operation.  150 creosote pilings in the Columbia River will be replaced improving the marine habitat and general water quality.  Expecting five tons of throughput annually, the site expansion will include a 525,000 square foot area to hold about 300,000 metric tons of coal.

December, 2010, following approval by Cowlitz County, a group including Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, Climate Solutions, and Washington Environmental Council, presented a challenge to the development of the Longview coal export facility.  The groups called into question the impact from mining, transportation, storage, shipment, and burning of the coal.  Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman said, "he county commission rubber-stamped the permit and ignored their duty to act in the best interest of the community”.  In late December the Washington Department of Ecology filed a motion to intervene on the grounds that the county’s environmental review should have looked at greenhouse gas emissions more broadly.  A hearing is currently set for April.

In the light of potential legal hurdles, the desire to export North American coal to China is so great that Arch Coal, a U.S. company and the second largest supplier of coal in the U.S., bought a 38% interest in Millennium Bulk Terminals while Ambre retains a controlling 62% interest.  Peabody Energy remains the largest supplier of coal on the U.S.  Both Arch Coal and Peabody Energy have substantial holdings in the Powder-River Basin (please read “U.S. Coal to China = 7,000 Mile Supply Chain” for more information).  Presumably Peabody Energy will also be looking for avenues to supply North American coal to China.

Approximately 45% of China’s energy needs are for industry.  Before getting uppity about China’s increasing energy appetite, think about how your material appetite affects China’s energy consumption.  Ask yourself one simple question: what percentage of your belongings bear the words “Made in China”?

Photo Credit: jpmueller99