Coal companies, frustrated by environmental regulations and growing competition from natural gas producers, have long hoped to expand their market by exporting coal to Asia. So far, however, they've been stymied by Western opposition, from Montana ranchers battling new rail lines to Washington residents fighting coastal terminals ("Coal-export schemes ignite unusual opposition, from Wyoming to India," HCN, 7/23/12). This local resistance, combined with declining international demand, threatens to snuff out coal export dreams.
Would-be exporters now plan to circumvent Northwestern opposition by running coal through terminals elsewhere in North America. Louisiana, Texas and Alabama – longtime oil producers whose governments are friendlier to fossil fuel industries – are home to at least a dozen proposals for new or expanded coal terminals. And a recently proposed $700 million export facility in the Mexican state of Sonora would be able to handle coal from Utah, Colorado and the Powder River Basin as early as 2017.