Corps, other agencies to review Ambre coal export project

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Seattle said Oct. 10 that it, Cowlitz County and the Washington Department of Ecology will oversee the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) for Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview LLC‘s coal export terminal project near Longview.

This is one of a handful of a projects proposed in the states of Oregon and Washington to build coal export terminals to take advantage of expected long-term demand growth from customers around the Pacific Rim, particularly in China and India. The projects have run into opposition, though, from local residents concerned about coal dust and congestion from coal trains moving to and from the terminals, and national environmental groups that want to choke off a supply of coal to power plants in other countries that would put more CO2 into the air.

The three agencies will coordinate their work under Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Corps noted. The agreement enables the Corps, the county and Ecology Department to coordinate the environmental review and avoid duplicate efforts where SEPA and NEPA overlap.

Millennium Bulk Terminals–Longview, whose members are Australia-based Ambre Energy and major U.S. coal producer Arch Coal (NYSE: ACI), proposes to build and operate a coal export facility capable of receiving coal by rail, stockpiling the coal, and loading it onto ships. The proposal calls for two separate construction stages. Both will be addressed in the EIS. In Stage 1, the company proposes to handle up to 25 million metric tons (tonnes) of coal per year, while Stage 2 would expand handling up to a total of 44 million tonnes per year.

The first opportunity for public input will be during the scoping process, which involves input on what should be covered by the EIS. Under this agreement, management and technical direction of the environmental review will be shared by the agencies. A third-party consultant will be hired to prepare the EIS.

The agencies’ environmental review is separate from a cleanup at the site that is being conducted under the state’s Model Toxics Control Act. The Ecology Department is working with site owner Northwest Alloys-Alcoa and site operator Millennium Bulk Terminals to investigate and clean up the site where the Reynolds Metals Co. owned and operated an aluminum smelter from 1941 to 2000. The smelter was permanently shut in 2001.

The planned coal export terminal also would be separate from current export operations on the site. Millennium Bulk Terminals currently moves alumina by ship and rail and takes a small amount of coal by rail for use by the neighboring Weyerhaeuser complex. These operations have existing permits and would not be altered by the adjacent coal export terminal proposal.

The Seattle office of the Corps said Sept. 21 that it is taking scoping comments on what should be in an environmental review for both the Gateway Pacific Terminal coal export project of Pacific International Terminal Inc. and the related BNSF Railway Custer Spur Rail Expansion project. The project sites are located in Whatcom County, Wash., northwest of Ferndale and south of Birch Bay in an area called Cherry Point.

Pacific International Terminal is proposing the coal-handling Gateway Pacific Terminal project to be developed on about 350 acres and including a three-berth, deepwater wharf. Upland facilities will include open air and covered commodity storage, each serviced by an on-site rail loop.

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.