(Reuters) - The Trump administration is considering using West Coast military facilities to export coal and natural gas to Asia, according to an Associated Press report on Monday citing U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
The move would help fossil fuel producers ship their products to Asia and circumvent environmental concerns in Democratic-leaning states like Washington, Oregon and California that have rejected efforts to build new coal ports.
In an interview in Billings, Montana, Zinke told AP “it’s in our interest for national security and our allies to make sure that they have access to affordable energy commodities” and proposed using naval facilities or other federal properties for exports.
Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, said the former Naval Air Facility Adak in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands could be used to export natural gas. He did not specify any others.
Asked to confirm the report, Interior Department spokeswoman Faith Vander Voort said: “The President and Secretary are committed to the men and women of coal country, and it should come as no surprise that Secretary Zinke has put a number of options on the table to revitalize these communities and achieve American Energy Dominance.”
U.S. President Donald Trump has made reviving the coal industry, and the declining communities that depend upon its jobs, a central tenet of his administration and has rolled back Obama-era environmental regulations to give the industry a boost.
Jay Inslee, the Democratic governor of Washington state, issued a statement calling the proposal “reckless.”
“The men and women who serve at our military bases are there to keep our country safe, not to service an export facility for private fossil fuel companies,” Inslee said, adding the state had learned about the proposal via news reports and not from the administration.
“This effort is just the latest attempt at an end run around Washington’s authority to safeguard the health and safety of our people.”
Reporting by Nichola Groom in Los Angeles; Editing by Matthew Lewis