LONGVIEW — Hundreds of people showed up Monday afternoon to have their say on the latest federal environmental review of a proposed coal terminal in Longview.
The crowd at the hearing was dominated by those wearing red to show their opposition to the project, although proponents wearing blue also had a healthy turnout. About 400 people attended the afternoon session at the Cowlitz County Expo Center in Longview. Another 350, approximately, attended the night session, which was expected to last until at least 9 p.m.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the draft environmental impact statement of the proposed $680 million project Sept. 30. The 3,400-page federal study arrived five months after state and county planners released their own 3,000-page environmental study of the same project on April 29.
There were no major outbursts at the afternoon hearing, although a few times the crowd laughed or applauded in appreciation or protest of a comment. While the hearing was intended to specifically focus on the draft EIS, most of those commenting made appeals for or against the coal terminal itself.
“I don’t know how you put bread on your table, but this is how honest, hard-working people do it,” said Dave Gillihan of Longview, a Millennium employee who said multiple generations of his family have worked on the former Reynolds Co. site where the project would be sited.
Public hearing on coal terminal in Clark County
Although the Millennium Bulk coal export terminal is proposed for Longview, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is hosting a public hearing about the project Tuesday at Exhibit Hall C of the Clark County Events Center at the Fairgrounds, 17402 N.E. Delfel Road, Ridgefield.
The meeting will allow the public to learn more and comment on the draft environmental impact statement for the terminal from 1 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.
For more information on the proposed terminal and to submit a comment, visit www.millenniumbulkeiswa.gov. The public comment period on the draft environmental study ends Nov. 29.
— Dameon Pesanti
Longview substitute teacher Billea Smith started to weep as she spoke about her fears for the terminal’s effects on clean water and air.
“I ask each and every one of you to go look at your children and your grandchildren in the eyes and justify the risks,” Smith said.
Members of least three different tribes spoke against the project. Another coal project, in Whatcom County in northwest Washington, was rejected this year because of tribal fishing rights, but the Army Corps study concluded that this project will not impinge on tribal fishing.
Cowlitz Tribe councilmember Jerry Iyall said that the study looked only at fish impacts downstream of the project site, without examining the upstream impacts or estimating how many salmon deaths and injuries could occur.
“Fewer juvenile or adult salmon will mean less salmon for tribal, commercial or sports fishers,” Iyall said. “This example is just one of many demonstrating that Millennium’s proposal did not responsibly review its project impacts.”
A few representatives from Oregon Celilo Village of the Yakama Nation spoke, including Chief Olsen Meanus Jr., who wore a feather headdress and a red shirt.
“This is our way of life. Our traditions have a lot do with the salmon. … If we lose this, we lose a big chunk of our livelihood,” Meanus said.
Some opponents claimed the environmental study was too narrow in its approach to greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike the state’s environmental review of the project — which looked at emissions from the point of coal extraction to the point of coal combustion — the Corps only looked at emissions from construction and operations.
“The draft EIS has major flaws. … The Corps’ review ignores climate change impacts from mining and burning 44 million tons of coal per a year,” said Paulette Lichatowich, a Port of St. Helens commissioner. The study also did not consider a new state rule to cap carbon emissions, she pointed out.
Millennium’s supporters commended the Corps for conducting what they saw as a comprehensive review, and highlighted the study’s findings that suggest the project would not create clouds of coal dust.
“If complaints continue about dust, we will know it’s a device just to deceive. Facts do matter. We will not be fooled by opponents who do not listen to facts,” said Bill Chapman, Millennium CEO.