Montana Congressman Steve Daines became the most recent lawmaker from the Powder River Basin to visit Bellingham and Cherry Point on behalf of his region’s coal economy.
Daines toured the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal site with two Montana union members on Thursday, Oct. 2, and made a case for building the export terminal.
If built, the terminal would export up to 48 million tons of coal a year to Asia from the Powder River Basin in southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming.
Daines emphasized the importance of mining jobs to Montana’s economy.
Citing a study by the Montana Chamber of Commerce and the University of Montana, Daines said the terminal would create jobs for 1,400 Montanans, and most of them would be union jobs. The increased employment and mining operations would generate $70 million in tax revenue for his state–enough to fund about 1,000 Montana teachers every year, he said.
“This project is a very tangible way we can create jobs in parts of Montana with very high unemployment rates,” Daines said. “One of the challenges we face in Montana is high unemployment rate on our reservations. On the Crow reservation it’s about 50 percent. That number would be 80 percent greater if it weren’t for the coal mining jobs.
Opponents of the terminal are concerned about transportation issues from increased train traffic, impacts to native fisheries, and the coal’s contribution to climate change once burned, among other things.
When asked if he was concerned about climate change, Daines said a balance could be reached between jobs and the environment.
“We can strike the right balance of environment, jobs and growth in the Bellingham area,” he said.
In a 2008 journal article titled “Target Atmospheric CO2,” climatologists wrote “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggests that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm.”
Currently, CO2 is more than 400 parts per million in the atmosphere.