Coal is the oldest and filthiest of fossil fuels. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber is right to request a comprehensive federal review of proposals that would more than double this country’s coal export capacity by turning Northwest ports into major shippers of U.S. coal to China and other Asian countries.
Kitzhaber’s request to the federal Bureau of Land Management and the Army Corps of Engineers won’t be popular with project supporters who say coal exports could play a vital role in the Northwest’s economic recovery, increasing rural jobs and tax revenues at a time when both are in short supply. They should keep in mind that the governor is not rejecting the idea of coal exports. But he is saying Northwest projects should not move forward without a clear understanding of their environmental and economic impacts.