The Biden administration argued against the Court hearing the case after the Trump administration failed to respond last year
The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it would not hear a case brought by the States of Montana and Wyoming versus the State of Washington regarding Washington’s effective blocking of coal exports by denying required permits.
According to the Court, Justices Thomas (appointed by President George H. W. Bush) and Alito (appointed by President George W. Bush) voted to grant the motion to hear the case.
Supreme Court procedures require four of the Court’s nine justices to vote to hear a case for the Court to take it up. The decision of the Court sided Trump appointees with the Chief Justice and the Court’s more liberal voting bloc.
The Supreme Court decision came quickly after the Court received a brief from the Solicitor General in the Biden administration. The Court had originally requested the Solicitor General weigh in on the case on Oct. 5, 2020, but the Trump administration failed to respond. The Biden administration, on behalf of the United States, filed its brief on May 25. Therein, the United States expressed its view that the motion should be denied.
In response to the Solicitor General, Montana and Wyoming filed their supplemental brief on June 7.
While it was the position of the United States that the court should not hear the case given that Millennium Bulk Terminal and its owner, Lighthouse Resources, had filed bankruptcy and subsequently released its lease for the Longview site, withdrawn its own suits both in federal and Washington State courts, and would not be developing the terminal, Montana and Wyoming argued that the case still needed to be heard given the ongoing attitude towards coal by the State of Washington and that the actions of Washington had led to Millennium and Lighthouse’s bankruptcy.
In cases between states, the constitution provides original jurisdiction to the U.S. Supreme Court. This differs from other cases, where a suit within a federal court is usually appealed to the Supreme Court, where the justices can then choose to hear the case.
In a press release today, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon said, “It is extremely frustrating that the U.S. Supreme Court failed to grant a hearing on the critical issue that this case raised. At some point the nation will have to figure out whether it expects to grow business or just to restrict it.”
“This case was never about a single permit or product. It was about the ability of one state to engage in lawful interstate commerce without the interference of another state. Today it is coal, tomorrow it could be agricultural products or any of our state’s abundant natural resources. At some point the Supreme Court is going to need to take on this matter,” Gordon added.
As the number one producer of coal in the United States, Campbell County and Wyoming both hoped that the export coal business would move forward as domestic demand has waned.
Campbell County Commissioner Rusty Bell said, “It is very unfortunate for all of us in Campbell County that the Supreme Court would not take this up and that the Trump administration did not submit a filing in this case. This is a step in the wrong direction for interstate commerce.”