The latest proposal for getting coal from the Powder River Basin to world markets involves a port on the west coast of Mexico. According to a report from SNL Financial, a Mexican company is in the process of securing permits for a $700 million export terminal. MEXPORT’s CEO Daniel Suarez told SNL there’s been interest from Powder River Basin coal producers, and if the company is able to raise sufficient capital, it could start exporting by 2017. The company's consultant didn't return calls for comment.
Clark Williams-Derry is skeptical of the proposal. He’s a researcher with the Sightline Institute, a sustainability think-tank in Seattle. He says a recent string of failed export proposals in the US should be a warning sign.
“What I see this as is sort of like one in a series of Hail Mary passes that the coal industry is trying to make, hoping that something will pan out at some point,” Williams-Derry says.
He says a downturn in thermal coal markets and increased regulation of pollutants in China, combined with the extra transportation costs to move the coal to Mexico make the terminal a risky investment. On the other hand, if the project moves forward, it’s not likely to meet with the same kind of environmental protests that have held up export terminals the Pacific Northwest