SHERIDAN — Cloud Peak Energy, Inc., has joined a campaign to rally support for the establishment of a coal export terminal in the state of Washington. The company wants to build a launching point for coal mined from the Powder River Basin destined for markets in Asia, but the effort has been met with opposition and legal disputes from interest groups in the northwest region of the country.
Media Relations Manager for Cloud Peak Energy Rick Curtsinger said at Wednesday Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce luncheon the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal would be set up northwest of Seattle and have the capacity to export approximately 54 million tons of coal per year. In addition to facilitating foreign countries with affordable, reliable means for electricity, the terminal boasts a projection of 5,000 new jobs, $11 million in revenue and $607 in private capitol. Cloud Peak is specifically interested in the GPT.
There are two other proposed projects to make similar shipping ports in the Pacific northwest.
Curtsinger said the Army Corps of Engineers has recently announced it will study each proposal independently, as opposed to conducting an area-wide environmental study that would have lumped the three ports together.
“Thankfully, the Army Corps followed its normal precedent,” Curtsinger said, indicating the individual consideration for Cloud Peak’s proposed portal leaves more potential for a favorable outcome for the company.
“While that news is positive, there has been significant opposition to these projects that have been well-organized and well-funded,” he continued. “As folks in the Pacific Northwest learn about these projects, they’re generally supportive. However, disinformation [sic] is rampant.”
That’s where the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports comes in. Curtsinger said the alliance is comprised of members of business, labor, agricultural and civic entities, and exists to highlight the benefits of establishing the northwest terminals. Cloud Peak Energy is a partner and funder.
“We have to counter the misinformation that’s out there,” Curtsinger said. “Our goal is to expand the conversation and bring in new voices.”
In addition to reaching out to companies, governments and residents who would live and operate near the proposed terminals, Cloud Peak Energy is working locally to rally support for the ports and the coal industry in general. Curtsinger has offered tours of the Spring Creek Mine to Congressional staffers, state legislators, union leaders and journalists.
“Seeing Spring Creek firsthand really gives a chance to change misperceptions folks have of coal,” Curtsinger said.
Cloud Peak Energy is presently the fourth largest coal producer in the nation and the top U.S. exporter of coal to South Korea. All of the company’s mines are surface mines in the Powder River Basin. In 2012, Spring Creek Mine and Cloud Peak Energy exported 4.4 million tons of coal to Asia via ports in British Columbia.
“Coal exports are already going through the Pacific Northwest and represent a great opportunity for growth,” Curtsinger said, adding that the world’s appetite for electricity is growing, and coal has been designated as the fuel of choice for Asia by the International Energy Agency.