Wyoming’s Legislature could launch legal action against the state of Washington over its refusal to allow the construction of coal export terminals under legislation approved by the Senate on Monday.
HB 251 was approved in its third reading on a vote of 22-7.
The measure gives the Legislature’s Management Council — lawmakers in leadership positions — the authority to file a lawsuit with or without the governor’s authorization and sets aside $250,000 for legal service.
The dispute stems over Washington’s denial of permits for Lighthouse Resources to build coal export terminals to ship American coal to Asian markets, which the bill maintains is a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. Wyoming in May joined five other coal-producing states in filing “friend of the court” briefs in support of a lawsuit against Washington filed by Lighthouse.
The bill calls for the Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee to study the feasibility of suing Washington for damages and then make a recommendation to the Legislature by Dec. 1. The money set aside to hire legal services could not be used until the Legislature approves the expense.At least one senator said she did not understand why the state needs to hire outside lawyers.
“My preference would be to use the talented lawyers we have working in the Wyoming attorney general’s (office) to do the bulk of that work rather than providing those dollars to outside attorneys,” said Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne.
Ellis said she would also rather see the state team up with coal companies already suing Washington than start separate litigation.