"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)

Limits on sovereignty

idaho RANDY

Idaho’s much-vaunted “sovereignty” is limited in more ways than many Idahoans would like to contemplate. Ambre Energy, much to its consternation, probably could tell you something about that.

Amber (see ambreenergy.com) is into coal, in a big way. Its web site notes that it “has a diverse portfolio of interests in coal mining, infrastructure and marketing. In the United States Pacific Northwest, we are linking our interests to build a US coal export business to Asian markets.” It has mines in Montana, Wyoming and Utah, and works with other mining companies in that region. It produces a lot of coal.

As it notes, the plan is to ship a lot of that coal across the Pacific, to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The early stages of that shipping process would run the coal through Idaho, across the Panhandle in the case of the Montana and some of the Wyoming mines, and across southern Idaho for the more southerly mines. Idaho does not seem to be an obstacle to that effort.

The next destinations west, Oregon and Washington, are, and coal transport in recent weeks has become one of the hottest issues in those states. It has meshed there with concernes about crude-oil trains and the shipping of liquified natural gas (which in Oregon has been a flashpoint issue in some places for a decade and more). Coal operators have proposed shipping at Longview and Bellingham, and have looked at other locations as well. To be clear: We’re talking here about energy exports, not use of the resource in the United States.

Oregon has put up some notable red flags. After the Port of Morrow (near Boardman) leased some land to Ambre for its shipping efforts, activists got busy. Governor John Kitzhaber on April 19 said flatly, “It is time to once and for all say NO to coal exports from the Pacific Northwest. It is time to say YES to national and state energy policies that will transform our economy and our communities into a future that can sustain the next generation.”

Washington’s new Governor Jay Inslee has been moving along similar directions in overseeing state approvals at ports there.

While megaloads carrying mechanical equipment have been a heated subject in Idaho, these fuel (and fuel resource – some have to be refined before overseas transport) shipping debates have only lightly hit the radar yet. In Idaho, the arguments for shipping the coal may have some of the same appeal that the Keystone pipeline (which also is aimed at energy resource exports, not domestic use) seems to have in the state.

Consider this another notch in the ramping-up of different approaches between Idaho and its western neighbors, and another example of how those ideas may get in the way of each other. Legalized pot and same-sex marriage are but two examples of the differences which have been smaller-bore in the past, but may get larger as time goes on, as the reds and blues in different jurisdictions get ever deeper.

Turns out that sovereignty – meaning, in one dictionary, “a country’s independent authority and the right to govern itself,” is distinctly limited.

Share on Facebook