Government agencies work on EIS for Washington coal terminal

The public in Washington state is being invited to comment on the scope of an environmental impact statement (EIS) that three agencies plan to jointly prepare for a proposed cooal export terminal near Longview, Wash.

Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview LLC proposes to build and operate a terminal to export coal from the site of the former Reynolds Aluminum smelter in Cowlitz County. Cowlitz County, the Washington Department of Ecology and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are conducting the EIS process and will produce one joint EIS.

A 95-day comment period for the EIS scoping process will begin Aug. 16 and end Nov. 18. Through scoping, the agencies will decide what impacts to analyze in the EIS. The lead agencies also will host five scoping meetings.

In scoping, the lead agencies said Aug. 9 that they are seek comments that will guide their decision on how the EIS will address:

  • A reasonable range of alternatives including alternative sites and project designs based on the project purpose.
  • Potentially affected natural, cultural, or community resources and the extent of study and analysis needed to understand each potential impact.
  • Significant probable unavoidable adverse impacts.
  • Measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate (offset) effects of the proposal.

The scoping process does not address whether the proposal should receive permits. It will help define what will be studied in the EIS. Decisions about permits cannot be made by local, state and federal agencies until after the final EIS is issued.

Following the comment period, the lead agencies will issue a scoping summary and then begin work on a draft EIS, which may take a year or more to prepare. After the draft EIS is written, the lead agencies will again seek public comment. After considering these comments, the lead agencies will issue a final EIS.

The agencies’ environmental review is separate from a cleanup being conducted at the site under the state’s Model Toxics Control Act at the site. Ecology 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 down in 2001.

The proposed coal shipping terminal project is also separate from current operations on the site. Millennium Bulk Terminals currently moves alumina from ship to rail to supply a Wenatchee aluminum smelter. The company also imports a small amount of coal by rail for use by the neighboring Weyerhaeuser complex.

This is one of a handful of coal export terminals proposed in recent years in Oregon and Washington to meet expected new export demand for U.S. coal around the Pacific Rim. The projects have provoked opposition from local and national environmental groups over issues ranging from coal dust that would come off trains moving these terminals, and the greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that would burn this coal.

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.