Via E&E Publishing:
The last major coal export terminal actively pending in the U.S. Northwest has its last public hearing tomorrow as time winds down for public comments over the terminal’s draft environmental impact statement.
The Millennium Bulk Terminals proposal includes using railroads to bring 44 million metric tons of coal from Montana, Wyoming and Colorado mines to the Cowlitz County, Wash.-based site along the Columbia River. From there, it would be shipped it to primarily Asian markets.
David Bennett, spokesman for Washington state’s Department of Ecology, said about 1,200 people came to the first hearing and another 500 to 700 came to the second. Speakers are limited to only two minutes each, but Bennett said at the first meetings, “everything was very, very smooth.”
Bennett encourages more people to comment but said the arguments have really centered on a few topics.
“For the individuals, it kind of boiled down to jobs versus environment, economic development versus environmental sustainability.”
The draft environmental impact statement (EIS) already raised several concerns.
The draft EIS states, “Unavoidable and significant adverse environmental impacts could remain for nine environmental resource areas: social and community resources; cultural resources; tribal resources (including salmon fishing); rail transportation; rail safety; vehicle transportation; vessel transportation; noise and vibration; and greenhouse gas emissions.”
Project estimates include an increase in rail traffic of 16 trains per day and 840 ships per year.
The EIS mentioned many of the project problems could be mitigated with plan changes or certain approvals. The statement included that the project would be a huge economic boost, providing about 1,350 temporary construction jobs over the six-year construction period.
The anti-terminal group Power Past Coal had members at the first meeting and said opposition heartily outweighed the proponents. Group members talked of coal’s already poor market conditions and generally highlighted the EIS concerns, such as effects to fishing.
“We know climate change is driving the diving of the salmon population, and there’s no quicker way we can make a difference than ending our addiction to coal,” Bob Rees, executive director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, said in a statement.
Others came to talk about how the terminal would affect Montana.
“A coal port in Longview threatens to open new mining that would damage our ancestral lands, water, and way of life,” Alaina Buffalo Spirit, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in southeastern Montana, said in a statement. “Anyone who says we can’t have economic development while protecting our land, water, and culture isn’t trying hard enough.”
Industry group Count on Coal also had members come out from Montana to highlight the jobs and economic boost this would create for both states.
“By following Washington’s strict environmental standards and creating economic opportunity in both states, the Millennium Bulk Terminal is a win-win for both states, and the environmental review process needs to be conducted in a fair and timely matter,” the industry group said in a statement.
There have been two public hearings over the draft EIS already, one May 24 in Cowlitz County and one in Spokane on Thursday. Tomorrow’s hearing will be in Pasco, with room to comment online until June 14.
After June 14, the Ecology Department, Cowlitz County and Army Corps of Engineers officials will meet with Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview LLC to discuss possible changes to the EIS. After the formal EIS is submitted, the terminal proposal faces a final review.
See the article here.
- On June 1, 2016