11/23/2014

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Final hearing on Longview coal terminal at Tacoma

Final hearing on Longview coal terminal at Tacoma
TACOMA, Wash. (AP) - The fifth and final public hearing on the environmental impact statement for proposed coal export terminal at Longview was one more chance for environmental and business groups to face off Thursday at the Tacoma Convention Center.

Hundreds of supporters and opponents have attended each of four previous hearings at Vancouver, Pasco, Spokane and Longview.

Two organized groups show up - opponents in red T-shirts and supporters wearing blue. Opponents are worried about congestion from long coal trains and environmental risks from burning coal anywhere in the world. Supporters cite new jobs from building and running the terminal and the economic benefits of world trade.

The $643 million Millennium Bulk Terminals facility would export coal arriving by train from Montana and Wyoming. Other terminals that would ship coal to Asia are proposed at Cherry Point near Bellingham and at Boardman, Ore.

The Washington Ecology Department and Cowlitz County scheduled the five hearings to gather public comment on the scope of an environmental impact statement on the Longview site on the Columbia River. The Corps of Engineers is conducting a separate environmental impact statement.

Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, and Washington Environment Council, are organized in the group Power Past Coal. It says polling shows a majority of Washington and Oregon residents oppose coal export from Northwest ports.

Plans to export coal are increasing as Americans phase out coal power and turn to cleaner energy, Power Past Coal says.

"Shipping up to 100 million metric tons of coal a year through (the) West Coast would clog our railroads, ports, and roads, risk our families' health, pollute our air and water, hurt local economies and continue to stoke the climate crisis," the group says on its website.

Millennium is backed by business organizations in the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports. They say Millennium will clean up the former Reynolds aluminum smelter site, create 1,300 construction jobs and add $2 million a year in state tax revenue when it's operating.

"Millennium Bulk Terminals is a project important to Cowlitz County, but will also benefit the entire trade economy of Washington," CEO Ken Miller said in a statement before Thursday's hearing. "It's been a year-and-a-half since we submitted permits. The agencies are conducting a thorough environment review that we want to proceed in a timely manner."
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