SEATTLE — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced plans Tuesday to perform a narrow environmental review of a proposed terminal on the Columbia River that would ship millions of tons of coal to Asia.
The corps said Tuesday that its review would largely focus in and around the Millennium Bulk Terminals site near Longview, in contrast to the sweeping review of the project being undertaken by state and local regulators.
The state Department of Ecology and Cowlitz County said last week they plan to review impacts that extend well beyond the project site, including global-warming effects from burning the exported coal in Asia, and rail impacts as coal is shipped by train from the Rockies through the state.
The Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports, a trade group that includes coal producers and other businesses, applauded the corps’ move.
“The expanded permitting process undermines Washington’s standing as a trade leader,” Ross Eisenberg with the National Association of Manufacturers said in a statement.
Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview is owned by Ambre Energy Ltd. and Arch Coal Inc. Coal from Montana and Wyoming would be carried on trains to the dock, which would ultimately be able to handle 44 million metric tons of coal a year.
Supporters say the project would create jobs and generate revenue for local governments. Opponents have fought it because of concerns about coal dust, pollution, train traffic, quality of life and other issues.
The county and state are conducting one review under state environmental law, while the army corps is doing a separate one under federal law.
The corps says it will take at least a year to complete it draft environmental impact statement.
The corps is also taking a different approach from state and county regulators, as it conducts a much narrower review of a $665 million proposed coal-export project at Cherry Point near Bellingham. That Gateway Pacific Terminal project would ship up to 48 million tons of coal to Asia.