Coal exports get a closer look at energy conference

MEAD GRUVER, Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The prospect that Wyoming's lagging coal industry could get a boost from overseas exports will get a closer look from industry insiders during the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority's spring energy conference in Cheyenne.

Panelists Thursday will discuss proposed coal export terminals in Oregon and Washington state. They'll also talk about international shipping of coal and potential markets for Wyoming coal in the Pacific Rim.

Coal production in Wyoming has fallen by 17 percent since 2008 amid low natural gas prices and increasing production of renewable energy, according to an Infrastructure Authority report.

The situation has Wyoming officials eager to find overseas markets for Wyoming coal and ways to export coal by rail and boat via huge dock facilities that would be built in the Pacific Northwest.

Last winter, the Wyoming Legislature granted the authority the ability to issue up to $1 billion in bonds to finance infrastructure projects that could be built outside Wyoming. Such projects could include coal export docks.

Proposals for coal export terminals in Washington state and Oregon have been the subject of much discussion over the past few years and little apparent headway amid opposition by environmentalists and others. Progress is being made nonetheless, said Loyd Drain, executive director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority.

"There's a lot of work going on every day," Drain said. "It just takes a lot of time with the permitting."

Thursday's coal export discussion panelists will include Joe Ritzman, vice president of business development at cargo terminal operating company SSA Marine, and Millennium Bulk Terminals Chief Executive Officer Bill Chapman, whose company is behind a proposed coal export terminal near Longview, Washington.

Energy consultant Michael Mewing, of Lighthouse Resources Inc., will discuss marketing Wyoming coal to Pacific Rim countries. Formerly Ambre Energy North America, Lighthouse Resources owns the Decker Mine in Montana and the Black Butte Mine in southwestern Wyoming and is pursuing two major coal export terminals in Oregon and Washington.

Lighthouse President and CEO Everett King will moderate the panel.

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