Mead to visit Canada to talk coal and business alliances
— June 7, 2013
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead will visit several Canadian cities this month to strengthen alliances on potential coal exports and to foster other business ties between Wyoming and Canada. Mead told reporters during a press conference today that the trip is part of a larger effort to increase Wyoming’s business ties with the international community.
“There were a handful of states in country last year that increased their international exports by double digits, and Wyoming was one of them, and I think we have an opportunity to build on that,” said Mead.
He said he will participate in more international trips later this summer and fall. “In order to increase international exports I think we have to get busy,” Mead added.
At the forefront of Wyoming’s international opportunities is the effort among Wyoming coal producers to export more product to Asian markets via new and expanded ports in the Pacific Northwest. Representatives from coal producers Cloud Peak Energy, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal will join the governor’s envoy to Vancouver, British Columbia. Other Wyoming business representatives will join the governor and his staff in a visit with Suncor officials in Alberta to discuss opportunities related to oil sands development.
In a prepared statement on Friday, Mead said, “Canada is Wyoming’s largest foreign trade partner. We do about $2 billion worth of trade per year and there are even more opportunities to develop in Canada. … Part of my goal is to build on our relationships. There are Canadian companies that are important to our economy and some Wyoming companies have already established themselves in Canada.”
Mead told reporters that the purpose of visiting with Canadian officials about coal ports is not necessarily to influence local debates there about potential environmental impacts. “I don’t think we as a state can say those aren’t legitimate concerns,” Mead said, adding that he merely intends to learn more about the local debate in Vancouver about expanding coal exports.
The governor is enthusiastically supportive of coal exports. He repeated to reporters his justification of coal exports, saying it would be disingenuous of the United States — which relies on coal for some 41 percent of its electrical generation — to tell the developing world not to also rely on coal.
Industry and elected officials in both Wyoming and Montana have strongly advocated plans to increase port capacity along the West Coast as way to market more Powder River Basin coal — a commodity that has lost some of its historic electric utility market in the U.S. due to vast new supplies of shale gas. Last month, the Associated Press reported that Montana officials were even considering a loan to a potential coal port developer.
Asked whether he’d be in favor of investing Wyoming taxpayer funds in coal ports, Gov. Mead said he’d have to think about it. He said that would be a “plan B” strategy, and for now he prefers that coal ports be built on private investment. “I don’t think their biggest issue is lack of ability to fund ports, it’s concerns of permitting and regulatory hangups,” said Mead.
— Dustin Bleizeffer is WyoFile editor-in-chief. He has written about Wyoming’s energy industries for 15 years. You can reach him at (307) 577-6069 or email email@example.com. Follow Dustin on Twitter at @DBleizeffer
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