Montana AG Rebukes Washington Regulatory Abuse

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox authored an op-ed in The New York Times last week excoriating the Inslee administration for its ongoing abuse of the regulatory process toward infrastructure projects in order “to pursue a predetermined, personal agenda.”

Fox argues that Inslee’s “yearslong public campaign” against fossil fuels is “bad news not only for international trade and the Americans who benefit from it, but also for global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Fox cites the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals project in Longview as a primary example.

Fox writes that the Inslee administration “offered a litany of excuses” backed by “insufficient evidence” in its denial of key permits for the Millennium project. Fox says the misuse of state government power “is simply an attempt to mask the true motive: Governor Inslee and his allies don’t like coal.”

But Attorney General Fox views the situation with some optimism: “Fortunately for Montana and Wyoming, the United States Constitution prevents such baldfaced discrimination.”

Fox has joined five other state attorneys general to file a joint amicus brief in support of a federal lawsuit against Inslee’s administration. Fox says the brief argues that, “Washington State is interfering with foreign and interstate trade by denying permits for the terminal” in what is part of officials’ “pattern of discrimination to pursue a predetermined, personal agenda to block the export of coal through their state.”

As the attorney general notes, Washington’s stonewalling has “significant consequences for our economy: lost tax revenue, lost high-wage jobs and diminished ability to engage in international trade.”

Ironically, Fox also points out that Inslee’s discrimination against projects like Millennium could result in higher levels of global carbon emissions. With Asian countries deeply invested in coal, they will purchase either the high-quality coal of the Powder River Basin or the dirtier-burning coal of other countries such as Indonesia. “If denying coal ports in Washington is part of the fight against climate change,” Fox writes, “it is moving the needle in the opposite direction.”

Fox worries about the precedent the Inslee administration’s actions will set if left unchecked. “Today it’s coal but tomorrow it could be about liquefied natural gas. Soon it could be nonorganic produce,” he writes. “America simply cannot allow one state to use geography and ideology to discriminate against another state’s commodities.”

The pattern of discrimination requires intervention, says Fox. “Montana and other Western coal-producing states are being held hostage by the ideology of politicians in Washington State. The courts need to rein them in and allow the expansion of the export terminal to proceed.”