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News / Business / Clark County Business

Vancouver seeks scrutiny of Longview coal proposal

Councilors to regulators: Look closely at impacts of terminal

By Brooks Johnson, Columbian Business Reporter
Published: May 23, 2016, 5:46pm

The city of Vancouver wants state regulators to take a close look at what up to 16 mile-and-a-half-long coal trains a day could mean for the community.

In response to the proposed Millennium coal export terminal in Longview, city councilors at a Monday workshop reviewed their 2012 resolution that asked for increased scrutiny on cumulative and local impacts of several proposed coal export terminals throughout the Northwest, whose numbers have since waned.

“It might be prudent to put out official opposition,” said Councilor Alishia Topper, who said she would be speaking at Tuesday’s hearing in Longview on the terminal’s draft environmental impact statement.

The city’s position, based on their resolution, is neutral so far but asks regulators to closely consider the effects of coal dust, emissions, air and water quality and emergency vehicle access through at-grade rail crossings.

“We’ve had some correspondence — people asking us to oppose the project — but that’s not what’s before us today,” said Councilor Jack Burkman, who added that it would require a public process for the city to come out for or against the terminal.

The propopsed Millennium terminal would be the largest in the nation, shipping 44 million tons of coal annually by rail to ships bound for Asian markets. Eight full trains with 125 cars each would travel through the Columbia River Gorge and Vancouver every day en route to Longview when the project is fully built out, and many if not all of those trains would return empty back through town.

The environmental impact statement released earlier this month found there would be several “significant and unavoidable impacts” involved in operating the terminal, though coal dust was not among them. City attorney Bronson Potter said there is no standard for coal dust, and that it was below what a study from New Zealand called the “nuisance standard.” However, emissions would be below state and federal air quality standards, Bronson said, and the impact to emergency response vehicles would also be significant.

City staff are preparing comments on the environmental review, which are due by June 13.

City Councilor Bill Turlay said he would speak at Tuesday’s hearing as a private citizen in favor of the project.

“We have the cleanest coal in the world coming out of Wyoming and Montana,” Turlay said.

The hearing runs from 1 to 9 p.m. at the Cowlitz Expo Center, 1900 Seventh Ave., Longview.

Comments on the project can also be submitted through www.millenniumbulkeiswa.gov or by mail to Millennium Bulk Terminals EIS, c/o ICF International, 710 Second Ave., Suite 550, Seattle, WA 98104.

The environmental impact statement can be found in full at www.millenniumbulkeiswa.gov/sepa-draft-eis.html

Columbian Business Reporter