The Supreme Court of the United States today declined to take up a lawsuit filed by the states of Montana and Wyoming that belatedly sought an injunction to revive efforts to construct port infrastructure in Washington State to enable the exporting of large quantities of coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel there is.
The Court’s decision means that lawyers for Montana and Wyoming’s pro-coal state governments will not get the opportunity to further plead their case to the six member right wing majority of justices collectively appointed by George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Donald J. Trump.
The two states had contended in their final, supplemental brief submitted in support of their motion for an injunction that a refusal to hear their case would effectively leave them with no recourse for reviving the coal export terminal project they desperately want built, but which has already been abandoned.
“Washington will continue to block port development and dissuade bidders from taking up this otherwise lucrative project. Evidenced by its successful eight-year crusade to kill the terminal project, Washington’s policy-driven interpretation of its laws and regulations is not going to change on its own. Without relief from this Court — the only forum with the power to grant it — Wyoming and Montana likely will never see their abundant coal reserves to foreign markets.”
To which we say: Good! That coal needs to stay in the ground.
The Court’s dismissal of Wyoming and Montana’s legal crusade for coal comes on the same day as the hottest temperatures ever recorded in the recent history of the Pacific Northwest. It should be abundantly, painfully clear to everyone that the Earth has a fever. The common home we all share is in trouble. Climate damage is causing extreme weather and sea level rise, among other consequences.
Republican politicians in Montana and Wyoming seem not to care.
As far as they’re concerned, coal is just good business, and they ought to be able to extract every last nugget of the stuff for burning here or elsewhere, regardless of the harm it would cause to the planet and to humanity.
Though the Millennium Bulk Terminal project is not going to be moving forward, plenty of coal from Wyoming and Montana is nevertheless still being exported through existing facilities at Washington ports — which is a problem.
“Plaintiffs’ claims are meritless. Their case is premised on the idea that Washington is ‘blockading’ their coal, preventing them from shipping their goods to foreign markets. In reality, millions of tons of coal from Montana and Wyoming pass through Washington each year for export, and there is unused coal export capacity at existing west coast ports,” AG Bob Ferguson and Solicitor General Noah Purcell wrote in a reply brief submitted by the State of Washington.
“The permit denial at issue here was based on valid environmental concerns specifically authorized by federal law, not discriminatory motives.”
“Ultimately, this case is not a dispute between States. It is about the denial of one permit application submitted by one private company. That dispute can be resolved in the litigation that already is proceeding. Nothing about this case merits the exercise of this Court’s original jurisdiction,” Ferguson and Purcell added.
The Biden administration sided with Washington State in urging the Court not to hear the case, taking the position that there was no controversy to be resolved.
Attorneys for the Department of Justice characterized the case this way:
“Montana and Wyoming seek leave to file a bill of complaint challenging Washington’s denial of Millennium’s application for a certification under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act — a certification that would have been a prerequisite to building a new coal export terminal on the Columbia River in Washington.”
“Regardless of whether that denial was unlawful, however, Millennium will not be building its proposed terminal. After Montana and Wyoming sought leave to file their bill of complaint in this Court, Millennium filed for bankruptcy and divested itself of any interest in the property in question. Accordingly, this suit would not redress Montana and Wyoming’s asserted injury from the denial of certification under Section 401. Because no Article III case or controversy exists, the motion for leave to file a bill of complaint should be denied.”
Wyoming recently created a $1 million plus pro-coal legal fund for the purposes of advancing lawsuits like the one the Supreme Court dismissed today.
The case’s demise isn’t going over well in Cheyenne or Helena.
Meanwhile, Washington’s elected representatives are happy to no longer be defendants in an anti-climate, right wing legal action.