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More Coal in Cowlitz County Commission Stockings?

December 13, 2010

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The face-offs continue between Northwest conservation groups and coal companies. Today, an appeal is being filed at the Washington State Shoreline Hearings Board. A coalition wants to reverse last month's decision by the Cowlitz County Commission to allow a coal export terminal to be built on waterfront land in Longview.

The groups' attorney, Jan Hasselman of Earthjustice, says the coal industry is scouting the Pacific coastline for sites it can use to ship coal from Montana and Wyoming to China, which he says should require more environmental scrutiny at the state or regional level.

"The governors of Washington, Oregon and California need to stand up and say, 'No! This isn't the right thing for our communities.' They haven't done that. So, the law puts the burden on the local authorities, who are making these permitting decisions."

Shipping coal to China comes with both local and international complications, Hasselman says. The Northwest should not contribute to China's pollution problems, and building a coal facility does not fit the clean energy plans of Washington or Oregon, he explains.

"We should be using that facility for light industrial use - manufacturing - and harness our American ingenuity and know-how to build things we can send to China, rather than exporting our natural resources."

The developer says the export terminal would create jobs and tax revenue, and would have equipment to control the coal dust.

The coalition Earthjustice represents includes Climate Solutions, Columbia Riverkeeper, the Sierra Club and the Washington Environmental Council.

The appeal asks that the permit be set aside and that Cowlitz County be required to do an environmental analysis. A decision could take up to six months.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA