Democratic lawmakers are pushing back against a Trump administration proposal to use U.S. military installations or other federal property along the West Coast as potential export terminals for fossil fuel exports to Asia.
In an interview with the Associated Press (AP), Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke said it was "in our interest for national security and our allies to make sure that they have access to affordable energy commodities." To make that happen, Zinke said the use of "some of our naval facilities, some of our federal facilities on the West Coast" may be required.
Zinke mentioned only one federal facility by name -- the former Naval Air Facility Adak in Alaska's Aleutian Islands -- as a possible liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal. He did not identify any other government properties as potential export terminal sites, nor did he mention coal or crude oil. The base at Adak has been closed since 1997.
Some Republican lawmakers appeared to support the idea. Sen. Steve Daines of Montana told the AP that Zinke, a former GOP congressman from Montana before being tapped to lead Interior, is looking for to help "Rocky Mountain states like Montana and Wyoming get access to Asian markets." Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming added that "retired military facilities or other places" could be used for energy exports.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, called the idea a "harebrained scheme to turn our naval bases into shipping ports for the coal companies...
"Our sailors have a national security mission, and they do a great job," Inslee said in a video posted to his website on Monday. "They should not have foisted upon them the responsibility of being coal stevedores. They need to be United States Navy sailors; that's their job."
Inslee said President Trump "needs to know he will not be able to subvert our environmental laws...This is going to be yet another one of the bad ideas from the Trump administration."
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) concurred. "The U.S. should be doing more to invest in clean energy, not threatening the health and safety of Oregonians by propping up dirty energy investors," he tweeted on Tuesday. "Zinke's approach shows a complete disregard for science and the voices of local communities."
Several proposals have emerged to export U.S. energy supplies to Asia, including LNG. Among them are two LNG export facilities still on the drawing board: Alaska LNG Project, which as designed could export up to 20 million metric tons/year, and Jordan Cove, which would be sited on Oregon's coast.
The Alaska Gasline Development Corp. (AGDC) is seeking to build Alaska LNG. AGDC spokesman Jesse Carlstrom told NGI that while the state-owned corporation’s management believes the current project is the best way to monetize North Slope gas and serve Asian markets, the sponsors “appreciate Secretary Zinke’s support for developing our natural resources and exploring ways to bring them to market."