Companies that want to export coal to Asia could find roadblocks in their path if Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) becomes chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Exporters have identified five ports in Oregon and Washington from which to send coal to Asia. Nations in that region, which have rapidly expanding economies and loose environmental standards, are a coveted destination for coal producers as use of the fossil fuel drops in the United States.

But Wyden, who is expected to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) as committee chairman if Democrats retain the Senate, is skeptical about sending coal abroad. He has called for more rigorous environmental reviews of the process, which many say could hold up coal exports from the Pacific Northwest.

Wyden wants the Army Corps of Engineers to consider the cumulative environmental impact of mining and transporting coal, rather than the current plan of evaluating each proposal individually.