Washington agencies take comment on Longview coal terminal impacts

Cowlitz County, Wash., and the Washington Department of Ecology are taking comment until June 13 on a draft study evaluating the potential environmental impacts of a proposed coal export terminal near Longview.

The 45-day public comment period on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement includes three public hearings: May 24 in Longview, May 26 in Spokane, and June 2 in Pasco.

Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview is proposing to build and operate a terminal that would handle up to 44 million metric tons of coal annually. The proposed facility would bring in coal from the western United States, mainly the Powder River Basin via trains, stockpile it at the facility, and then export the coal by ship to Asia.

The draft study evaluates 23 environmental resource areas using analytical methods and information from multiple studies. The areas include the natural environment, the man-made environment, and transportation.

The study found the proposed project could have environmental impacts in 21 of the areas – some of them significant. Mitigation that could reduce or offset impacts is also proposed in the study.

The study identifies impacts from construction and operations to water quality, fish and wildlife, groundwater, and the local communities. The study evaluates the possible impacts to rail and vehicle traffic by adding eight loaded trains plus eight empty trains (each 1.3 miles long) daily.

The analysis looks at coal dust, noise, and air quality in Cowlitz County and Washington. It includes the potential impacts to vessel traffic by adding 1,680 new vessel trips each year to the Columbia River. The study identifies air-quality impacts, including greenhouse gas pollution that could happen due to the proposed project.

Cowlitz County and Ecology are co-leading the study, which follows Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act.

“The partnership between Cowlitz County and Ecology brings together our local knowledge and state perspective to form a thorough consideration of impacts,” said Elaine Placido, Cowlitz County Director of Building and Planning, in an April 29 statement.

“The draft study answers a wide range of questions from the public, and now it’s time for people to review and offer their perspective,” said Sally Toteff, regional director for Ecology’s Southwest Region Office.

This is one of a handful of coal export terminal proposed in recent years in Washington and Oregon, all of which have run into opposition from groups like the Sierra Club. They complain about issues like coal dust from the trains bringing the coal into the terminals, and about exporting CO2 emissions to other countries, since most of this coal would be burned in power plants around the Pacific Rim.

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.