BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Trump administration is considering using West Coast military installations or other federal properties to open the way for more U.S. fossil fuel exports to Asia in the name of national security and despite opposition from coastal states.
The proposal was described to The Associated Press by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and two Republican lawmakers.
“I respect the state of Washington and Oregon and California,” Zinke said in an interview with AP. “But also, it’s in our interest for national security and our allies to make sure that they have access to affordable energy commodities.”
Accomplishing that, Zinke said, may require the use of “some of our naval facilities, some of our federal facilities on the West Coast.” He only identified one prospect, a mostly abandoned Alaska military base.
The idea generated a quick backlash Monday from some Democrats and environmentalists. It’s tantamount to an end-run around West Coast officials who have rejected private-sector efforts to build new coal ports in their states.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, called the proposal a “harebrained idea,” and said President Donald Trump should instead consider that climate change represents a national security threat.
Boosting coal and gas exports would advance the administration’s agenda to establish U.S. “energy dominance” on the world stage. The potential use of government properties for exports underscores a willingness to intervene in markets to make that happen.
The administration in recent months has cited national security as justification for keeping domestic coal-burning power plants online to prevent disruptions of electricity supplies.
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