Governor Brian Schweitzer continues working on deals to sell Montana coal to China. Schweitzer met with coal companies during a recent trip to China.
A prominent Montana environmental scientist has some major problems with that.
Governor Schweitzer discussed coal during a press conference last week. The Governor had meetings, including with the Manyuan company. Manyuan officials visited Montana last November to discuss buying the state’s coal. Schweitzer says selling Montana coal could create jobs and bring in tax revenue
Montana has the largest coal reserve in the US and China has a large expanding market. Selling the coal is not so simple, though. There is a big hitch, a lack of shipping capacity at ports.
“Montana is the closest supply of coal in the United States to the West Coast Ports. But they are aware in China and Australia and Indonesia that this coal supply that we have in Montana doesn’t have the ability to make it to market,” Schweitzer said.
Port capacity has been a stumbling block to selling Montana coal for awhile. It’s a controversial proposal for Washington ports like Longview.
University of Montana Environmental Scientist and Nobel Laureate Steve Running said coal is the worst carbon emitter of all fossil fuels. He said every incremental choice favoring fossil fuels is a step in the wrong direction.
“Of course, this will be the recipe for global disaster if every single decision just keeps getting made this way and if all the economic structure continues to favor the cheapest dirtiest energy source,” Running said. He believes Governor Schweitzer has made many positive moves for the environment, including heavy pushes for renewable energy.
But that may not be his legacy with the environmental community.
“Certainly if he ends his Governor’s tenure with big coal deals that’s gonna be what a lot of us remember him for most and for an awful long time,” he said.
The Governor this week declined any further comment on details of his recent meetings with Chinese coal companies.But in that press conference last week, he said Montana coal production could increase about 10 percent in the next few years. That’s if expected increases in port capacity go through.