Monday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the Wyoming coal port action case it is in dispute against the State of Washington.
The justices invited the acting U.S. Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, to file a brief expressing the views of the United States on the matter.
Both Montana and Wyoming are both invoking the U.S. Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction, which allows for disputes between states to bypass lower courts and proceed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Wyoming and Montana argue Washington’s denial of a Section 401 Water Quality Certification for the coal terminal violates both the Dormant Commerce Clause and the Foreign Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. The Commerce Clause to the U.S. Constitution authorizes the federal government, rather than the states, to regulate interstate commerce.
“It is encouraging that the Supreme Court is a step closer to taking up our Commerce Clause question against Washington State for inappropriately using the Clean Water Act to block our access to overseas markets,” said Gov. Mark Gordon in a press release Monday. “This issue is extremely important to Wyoming and Montana, and it appears members of the Supreme Court recognize the significant constitutional issue of one State’s actions preventing another State from shipping a product, in this case coal, to willing markets. It is an issue as old as our country.”
Until June, Wall was the Deputy Solicitor General to former solicitor general Noel Francisco, who represented the International Coal Group during a congressional investigation into the 2006 Sago Mine accident in West Virginia.
The dispute centers on Washington’s permit denials for building the Millennium Bulk Terminal, thereby denying Wyoming and Montana access to Asian markets and preventing a major coal export center from developing. MBT would have the capacity to handle 44 million metric tons of coal annually.
Washington officials said the coal terminal would cause “unavoidable and significant adverse environmental impacts.”