Feds to review coal dock separately

Longview study split after state expands Bellingham analysis

By

Published:

 

LONGVIEW — Washington state's decision to include greenhouse gas emissions and train traffic concerns in the review of a proposed coal terminal near the Canadian border has caused the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a separate federal review of a coal export dock in southwest Washington.

Cowlitz County, state and federal officials will still work together on much of the review of the Millennium Bulk Terminal in Longview. But now they will develop two separate environmental impact statements, one by the corps and one by the state Department of Ecology and Cowlitz County.

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 Bellingham and in Boardman, Ore.

The corps has also announced that its review for the Boardman project will consider effects on fish only within a 3,000-foot stretch of the Columbia River (see story, Page C5).

The Department of Ecology announced in July it would do a 2-year statewide study on the impact of exporting millions of tons of coal through the Cherry Point terminal in Whatcom County.

The coal terminals proposed for Washington 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.

Previously the corps, Cowlitz County and state Department of Ecology had said they'd work together to develop the draft environmental statement for the Millennium project.

Such documents determine which areas will be studied for potential impacts and what steps might be needed to avoid or reduce harmful effects.

On Friday officials announced the corps now wants to write its own draft study, though all three agencies will still work together gathering facts and comments about the Millennium project. The corps changed course after the state expanded the scope of the study of the terminal in Bellingham.

"It made sense to do two separate documents but continue the collaborative process," said corps spokeswoman Patricia Graesser in Seattle. "Basically, our scope is quite narrow in comparison with what the (state) review will be looking at, and that difference did lead us to look at whether a joint document is the best path forward."