The coal export terminal proposed for the Columbia River town of Longview, Wash. is moving to the next phase in the environmental review process.
The Washington Department of Ecology announced Wednesday what environmental impacts it will consider in its review of the Millennium Bulk Terminal, which will move more than 40 million tons of coal from trains onto ships. At maximum capacity, 16 trains will service the terminal every day, traveling to and from the coal mines of the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana. Each month, 140 ships will deliver the coal to Asia.
It's one of three proposals in the Northwest to build shipping facilities to transfer trainloads of coal onto ships bound for Asia.
The Department of Ecology received 215,000 comments from the public about the Millenium Bulk Terminal. People asked Ecology to consider the environmental impacts of the vessel and ship traffic in the region. They also wanted Ecology to look at how the coal terminal will affect air and water quality, traffic, safety, human health and wildlife.
“Today we are just in the starting blocks for gathering information," said Sally Toteff, the agency's southwest regional director.
The draft environmental impact statement will include an assessment of greenhouse gas emissions, including terminal construction, operation, rail and vessel traffic and also the end use coal combustion, Toteff said, although she specified that Ecology will not be evaluating environmental impacts in the countries that import and burn the coal.
Ecology did not have a date for when the EIS will be completed.
Communities along the train route from the Powder River Basin to the proposed terminal have expressed concerns about coal dust, traffic and public health impacts.
“Spokane has much to lose, and little to gain by allowing all these new coal trains through our town," said Ben Stuckart, Spokane City Council president, who was pleased to hear of the broad scope of Ecology's environmental review. “It's great news that our state agency listened.”
Ecology has recently come under attack by those who support coal exports in the region for its decision to look at impacts outside the immediate vicinity of the project, including greenhouse gas emissions from burning the coal.
“This month marks the two year anniversary of submitting permits to invest over $600 million in a coal export terminal near Longview," said Ken Miller, president and CEO of Millennium Bulk Terminals in a statement. "We are pleased the co-lead agencies are moving forward with drafting an EIS.”
The two other coal terminals under consideration in the Northwest would be built near Bellingham, Wash. and in Boardman, Ore.
A $640 million terminal that would eventually export 44 million tons of coal at a private brownfield site near Longview, Wash. It's a joint venture of Australia's Ambre Energy and Arch Coal, the second-largest coal producer in the U.S.
Players: Alcoa, Ambre Energy, Arch Coal
Full Capacity: To be reached by 2018
Export Plans: 48.5 million short tons/year
Trains: 16 trains/day (8 full and 8 empty)
Train Cars: 960/day
What's Next: On Feb. 12, 2014 the Washington Department of Ecology announced what environmental impacts it will consider in its review of the Millennium Bulk Terminal. In September 2013, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced split from what was to be a joint review process. They will conduct a “separate but synchronized environmental review and public scoping process.” The corps' review will be narrower in scope than that of Washington state. For more information on how to submit comments and to learn details for the public meetings visit the official EIS website.