Scoping meetings Wednesday at fairgrounds
The scoping period for the environmental review of Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview’s proposed coal-export operation began Aug. 16 and wraps up Nov. 18. During this period, regulators are gathering comments to help them decide what environmental impacts to analyze.Scoping meetings already have been held in Longview, Spokane and Pasco. The next one is from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Clark County Fairgrounds. Oral comment periods are from 1 to 4 p.m. and from 5 to 8 p.m.
During the meeting, information about the project will be available, and officials will be on hand to answer questions.
People also can view information about the proposed project and comment at any time during the 95-day comment period. Some options are available 24 hours a day, including:
• The official environmental impact statement website: www.millenniumbulkeiswa.gov
• Email: email@example.com
• Mail: Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview EIS, c/o ICF International, 710 Second Ave., Suite 550, Seattle, WA 98104.–Aaron Corvin
The sprawling site of a former aluminum smelter in Longview faces so many hurdles in its bid to be reborn as a coal-shipping terminal that it’s hard to know where to start.
Terminal developers must navigate a bramble of none-too-easy to obtain permits from local, state and federal governments.
Spirited opposition gathers in the form of activists carrying a litany of concerns, among them: the exacerbation of human-induced climate change, increased train traffic in communities small and large, and toxic coal discharges from trains into the Columbia River. And the global market for coal softens, prompting business analysts to question the wisdom of massive capital investment in exports.
Yet the leaders of Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview exude both patience and confidence. They fire back against critics with arguments and long-term analyses of their own.
“Coal is a commodity, and commodity prices fluctuate. That’s just a fact,” Wendy Hutchinson, vice president of public affairs for Millennium, told a Columbian reporter during a recent tour of the company’s roughly 540-acre location, southwest of Longview’s downtown.
She noted projections by the U.S. Energy Information Administration showing coal will remain a dominant source of energy for decades to come.
Millennium, owned by Ambre Energy and Arch Coal Inc., aims to transform its brownfield property into a muscular machine exporting up to 44 million metric tons of coal annually to energy-thirsty Asia.
The company’s plan is one of some 14 different coal- and oil-handling expansion proposals and operations roiling energy politics in the Northwest. It’s
also one of three coal proposals in Washington and Oregon serving as linchpins in a much broader struggle between renewable-energy advocates and coal producers. And, in Millennium’s case, that struggle has reached a critical environmental-review stage. In this stage, called “scoping,” backers and opponents are squared off over two central tasks: to sharpen their best arguments and evidence for and against Millennium’s proposal and, by doing so, to wrest control over how the impacts of the coal plan should be evaluated by regulatory agencies who have the final say over whether the project gets built.
It’s all coming to Clark County on Wednesday, when opponents, eyeing an opportunity to defeat dirty coal, and backers, envisioning jobs triggered by a legal commodity, are expected to pack the Clark County Fairgrounds for hourslong scoping meetings under state and federal environmental laws.