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Activists: Otter Creek Decision Is 'Another Nail In The Coffin' For Longview Export Facility

Suspended plans for a major coal mine in Montana spell good news for people concerned about coal exports planned to go through ports in the Pacific Northwest. Activists say the proposed terminals left on the books are all nearing what they call "zombie status."

Zombie status, as in: still moving forward, but basically dead.

I heard the phrase from Ross Macfarlane, a staffer with the non-profit group Climate Solutions. He’s among the anti-coal activists celebrating the news that Arch Coal will not pursue development of the Otter Creek mine in southeastern Montana.

The mine, part of the Powder River Basinthat has been a source of many coal trains, was to feed an export terminal in Longview, Wash. It was to produce up to 20 million tons annually, mostly for Asian and other overseas markets.

“That premise has turned out to be completely incorrect. The market’s already gone away from it. And its decision to cancel the development of this mine is just another nail in the coffin for the dwindling prospects of these Northwest export proposals,” Macfarlane said.  

Arch announced the suspension in a press release. Plans to build a $400-million-dollar railroad to the mine site were put on hold indefinitely last year. Climate Solutions has reported extensively on the weak financials of Arch, which filed for bankruptcy protection in January.

Longview is one of only two proposed coal export terminals left in Washington state. The other one is Cherry Point, near Bellingham. Its viability has been challenged as well by the Lummi tribe, because of concerns about the impact of the terminal on traditional fishing grounds. Oregon recently ruled against the proposed export at its Port in Boardman. All of this adds up to mean that three of the seven originally proposed coal export facilities in the Northwest are all now quite tenuous.  

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to