City of Vancouver wants input on coal terminals in Oregon, Washington

The Vancouver City Council in Washington state on July 16 approved a resolution of concern about up to six coal export terminals planned in Oregon and Washington.

The resolution said there is “concern regarding the impact of increased coal transport rail traffic in Vancouver resulting from proposed rail terminal projects in Whatcom County Washington, Cowlitz County Washington, Grays Harbor County Washington, Morrow County, Oregon, Coos County, Oregon and Columbia County, Oregon.”

The resolution requests that the agencies reviewing the environmental impact statements (EIS) for these projects, including federal, state, and local agencies, include impacts, both direct and cumulative, along the train and Columbia River routes for freight moving to the proposed terminals in the EIS and that at least one of the EIS Scoping hearings and one of any other subsequent hearings related to the EIS for each project be held in Clark County.

“A major coal export terminal (Millennium) is being proposed in Longview that is projected to export up to 44 million tons of coal per year to Asia,” said a summary in the council agenda for the July 16 meeting. “The coal would be transported by rail from mines in Montana and Wyoming and the Longview facility alone could result in as many as 16 trains per day – each up to a mile-and-a-half in length – passing through the City of Vancouver. In addition, there are two other coal export terminals proposed in Washington and Oregon which are in various stages of the concept/permitting process and two terminals in Washington and Oregon, which may result in a further increase in coal trains through Vancouver city limits.”

Vancouver, with its excellent rail access from the east and from points north and south, will potentially experience a major increase in rail traffic from coal export terminals in Longview (Millenium), Bellingham (Cherry Point), and St. Helens, Ore. (Kinder Morgan), and it is important that potential impacts to the city of Vancouver be considered in forthcoming environmental studies for these facilities as well as for other facilities that may be proposed for development in the future, the summary said.

“While Vancouver would not have any approval authority over any of the proposed coal terminals, the Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) mandates that cumulative impacts from proposals be considered and mitigated to the extent possible,” said the summary. “Accordingly, the City of Vancouver should be included as a SEPA party of interest for each of the environmental reviews and afforded the opportunity to comment on the scope of each environmental impact statement and the analysis of any such identified impacts.”

These terminal projects, designed to meet rising demand for exported U.S. coal around the Pacific Rim, are backed by various parties, including Australia’s Ambre Energy, Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU) and Arch Coal (NYSE: ACI).

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.