SEATTLE — Preliminary work begins next week for an environmental impact study on plans to build a coal shipping terminal in Longview.
Cowlitz County, state and federal officials will take public comments on the scope of the environmental study between Aug. 16 and Nov. 18. Comments will be accepted by email, through regular mail, on the project website and in person at a series of community meetings.
Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview LLC wants to build and operate a coal export terminal on the site of the former Reynolds Aluminum smelter on the Columbia River in Longview.
The Longview terminal is one of three in the Northwest proposed to ship coal from Montana and Wyoming to Asia. The others are at Cherry Point outside of Bellingham and in Boardman, Ore.
The scoping process will help Cowlitz County, the Washington Department of Ecology and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decide what should be studied in their environmental reviews of the project.
The scoping process will decide whether the study should look at possible alternative sites, the potential impact on natural, cultural and community resources, possible adverse impacts and how to avoid or mitigate them.
Five community. meetings will be held: Sept. 17 in Longview, Sept. 25 in Spokane, Oct. 1 in Pasco, Oct. 9 at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds and Oct. 17 in Tacoma.
The next step in the multiyear process will be the actual environmental review. Then public comment will be taken again — at least a year from now — on a draft of the environmental impact statement.
A similar, but broader, process has been planned for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point.
The Department of Ecology announced last month it would do a 2-year statewide study on the impact of exporting millions of tons of coal through the terminal in Whatcom County.
The coal terminals proposed for Washington state would ship a projected 110 million tons of coal to Asia each year, with the majority going through the Bellingham port.
The coal industry and its backers have pushed aggressively for the new export terminals, saying they would attract new jobs and help the economy.
Environmental groups worry about the impact of transporting coal across the western states, as well as the global impact.
Diane Butorac, a regional planner with the Department of Ecology, said comments on the scope of the environmental study will be accepted from anyone who wants to offer his or her opinion and all comments will be considered equally, whether the commenter is from Washington or another state.