A coalition of environmental groups and clean energy advocates are delaying construction of a huge port to be used for shipping coal to Asia.

Back in November, Cowlitz County granted a permit for the construction of the Longview Coal Export Project, which would be located in Longview, Wash., — about 125 miles south of Seattle and 40 miles north of Portland, Ore. If constructed, the port will be used for the annual transport of 5 million tons of American coal to Asia.

But the plan has hit a snag this week thanks to an appeal filed to the Washington State Shorelines Hearing Board by Earthjustice on behalf of Climate Solutions, Sierra Club, Washington Environmental Council and Columbia Riverkeeper. The appeal is based on four basic grievances:

1. Failure to study the consequences of burning coal in Asia.

2. Failure to consider the effects of potentially increased coal mining.

3. Failure to analyze the effects of transporting coal hundreds of miles via train, where a large volume of coal dust is generally lost.

4. Failure to analyze the effects of transporting the coal via ship to Asia.

If constructed, the coal port would be the destination for coal mined in Montana and Wyoming that travels through the Columbia Gorge by train. Once the coal reached the port, it would be shipped to ports in Asia, most of them in China.

In a statement released after the appeal was filed, K.C. Golden of Climate Solutions said, “This one facility would export about as much coal as the whole state of Washington now uses, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. It flies in the face of the state’s commitment to climate solutions and leadership in the clean energy economy. The most jobs, the best jobs, are in building our clean energy economy, not in serving as a resource colony for Asian economies.”

This situation could create another clash of the arguments for and against this easily accessible energy source. On one side, we have a domestic energy supply that is in demand around the world, accounting for current and future jobs. On the other hand, there's the argument that spreading our cheap energy addiction to other parts of the world is bad for long-term climate health and clean energy innovation here in the United States.

That’s the best part of America: We have the opportunity to debate. Depending if you're on the winning side or the losing side of that discussion, you may also think this is the worst part of America.

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