Trump Administration Didn't Weigh In On Washington Coal Port, But Biden Could

Jan 22, 2021

Credit Peabody Energy, Inc.

The Trump Administration did not weigh in on a legal case that could impact the future of coal in Wyoming and Montana, leaving open the possibility for the new Biden Administration to weigh in instead.

In January 2020, Wyoming and Montana asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in a dispute the coal-producing Mountain West states were having with Washington.

The northwestern state never permitted a proposed coal port, which could have shipped American coal to Asia. Wyoming and Montana argue Washington's actions are unconstitutional and have asked the Supreme Court to rule on the matter.

In October, the Court asked Trump's Justice Department to file a brief expressing the federal government's opinion on the matter. That brief was never filed under the Trump Administration and is now in the hands of the Biden administration.

Southern Methodist University Professor of Law James Coleman said the new administration could very well weigh in, given its climate policy goals.

"You would imagine that the BIden Administration would want to give the West Coast states the room to craft their own policy on fossil fuels," he said. "The court will listen to what the Biden Administration says as it would listen to what any administration says. That government opinion is very important."

To date, the Supreme Court has not decided whether to hear the case. That decision takes the agreement of four justices, but the issue might divide the court's conversative justices over the issue of states' rights.