Three short years ago, the conventional wisdom was both that growing thermal coal demand in Asia couldn’t be met by regional suppliers, and that low-cost coal from the US would fill the breech. Several new coal ports, notably in Oregon and Washington, were already in the early stages of permit approval, hoping to help fill this void.
The intervening three years have made clear what a miscalculation this was. Opposition to the major projects – Gateway Pacific, Millennium and Port Morrow – has been effective, led by a broad coalition of environmental groups, tribal nations and local and national governments . But as challenging as this was for port developers, the larger problem has been economic.