Document Type

Thesis

Date of Degree Completion

Fall 2019

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Cultural and Environmental Resource Management

Committee Chair

Elvin Delgado

Second Committee Member

Michael Pease

Third Committee Member

Rodrigo Renteria-Valencia

Abstract

The declining demand for coal in the United States (U.S. Energy Information Administration [EIA] 2016) has led to a push by the coal industry for the construction of export terminals in the Pacific Northwest that would supply coal from the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming to Asia. Though none of the proposed terminals have been approved for construction, the Millennium Bulk Coal Export Terminal in Longview, Washington remains a potentially viable option pending decisions in state and federal courts. In this thesis, I critically analyze the Millennium Bulk Terminal permitting process through a mixed-methods qualitative approach that uses archival work supported by semi-structured interviews and adopts the frameworks of political ecology, political economy of natural resources, and environmental governance.

I argue in this thesis that the complexity and extended duration of the Millennium Bulk coal export terminal permitting process is the result of the multiplicity of interests acting upon it. The controversial nature of the terminal has created divisive friction within the Longview community over the environmental costs of potential economic growth, but it is the state of Washington’s climate-change focused political agenda that has led to what appears to be the terminal’s demise. These state government actions to deny critical permits for the Millennium terminal has produced inter-scalar tensions with the federal government, who, under President Trump’s administration, has used neoliberal economic strategies to attempt to promote fossil fuel development and export. Coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest, however, have not been able to gain state government approval because of the cumulative effect of the specific materiality of coal and the position of these terminals at the midstream point of the global coal commodity chain.

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