Corps seeks comment on EIS for coal export terminal in Washington

On Sept. 30, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the controversial Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview coal export terminal.

The Corps is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) lead agency. The public and agencies are invited to review the document, provide comments, and attend a public hearing/open house. The public comment period runs to Nov. 29. Cowlitz County and the Washington State Department of Ecology are co-lead agencies preparing an EIS under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). The comment period on the SEPA Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is now closed. The anticipated release date for the SEPA Final EIS is mid 2017.

Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview LLC is proposing to construct and operate an export terminal in Cowlitz County, Washington, along the Columbia River. It would receive coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming, and the Uinta Basin in Utah and Colorado, via rail shipment. It would receive, stockpile, blend, and load coal by conveyor onto vessels in the Columbia River for export. The proposed terminal would be constructed in two stages with a maximum throughput of 44 million metric tons of coal per year.

The Draft EIS from the Corps evaluates two action alternatives for the proposed export terminal—the On-Site Alternative and the Off-Site Alternative—as well as the No-Action Alternative. It identifies two potentially suitable locations that have been analyzed in this Draft EIS. These locations are the Northwest Alloys site in Longview (the site currently leased by the applicant and referred to as the “On-Site Alternative”), and the Barlow Point site in Longview (referred to as the “Off-Site Alternative”). The applicant considered 35 other sites that did not qualify for further NEPA analysis.

  • Under the On-Site Alternative, the applicant would construct and operate an export terminal in Cowlitz County, Washington, along the Columbia River. The terminal would receive coal via rail shipment from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming, and Uinta Basin in Utah and Colorado. The coal would be stored on site then loaded and transported by ocean-going vessels via the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean to overseas markets in Asia. The terminal would be capable of receiving, stockpiling, blending, and loading coal by conveyor onto vessels in the Columbia River for export. Under the On-Site Alternative, the applicant would develop the terminal on 190 acres, primarily within an existing 540-acre site leased by the applicant. The applicant currently operates and would continue to operate an independent bulk product terminal adjacent to the project area. BNSF Railway or Union Pacific Railroad (UP) trains would transport coal in unit trains from the BNSF main line to the proposed export terminal on the BNSF Spur and Reynolds Lead rail lines. Coal would be unloaded from rail cars, stockpiled and blended, and loaded by conveyor onto ocean-going vessels at two new docks (Docks 2 and 3) located in the Columbia River. The applicant anticipates construction would begin in 2018 and be completed by 2024. For this EIS analysis, it is assumed the terminal would become fully operational at maximum capacity (44 million metric tons of coal per year) by 2028. Current operations of the bulk product terminal include storing and transporting alumina and up to 150,000 metric tons per year of coal.
  • Under the Off-Site Alternative, the proposed terminal would be built on a 220-acre site adjacent to the Columbia River in an area commonly referred to as Barlow Point. The project area for the Off-Site Alternative is west and downriver of the project area for the On-Site Alternative. The two project areas are adjacent to one another. Once construction is complete, the Off-Site Alternative would have an annual throughput capacity of up to 44 million metric tons of coal per year. The terminal would consist of the same elements as the On-Site Alternative: one operating rail track, eight rail tracks for the storage of rail cars, rail car unloading facilities, stockpile areas for coal storage, conveyor and reclaiming facilities, two new docks in the Columbia River (Docks A and B), and shiploading facilities on the two docks. Dredging in the Columbia River would be required to provide access to the Columbia River navigation channel and for berthing at the two new docks. Rail and vessel traffic volumes for the Off-Site Alternative would be the same as the On-Site Alternative.

This and similar coal export terminal projects on the West Coast have provoked years of environmental group opposition, based on factors like the environmental impacts of the mining and transportation of this coal, and the greenhouse gas emissions when much of this coal is 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.