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Report: Coal Terminal Would Have "Significant" Impact on Environment

Rail accidents could increase by 22 percent if improvements are not made to rail lines, according to a report on the proposed Columbia River coal terminal. (Greg Goebel/Yvcol_2b)
Rail accidents could increase by 22 percent if improvements are not made to rail lines, according to a report on the proposed Columbia River coal terminal. (Greg Goebel/Yvcol_2b)
May 2, 2016

SEATTLE - Greenhouse-gas emissions from the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals coal-export project in Longview would be equivalent to adding more than 600,000 cars to the road each year.

That's according to a draft environmental impact study released by Cowlitz County and the Washington State Department of Ecology last week.

The study highlights a number of "significant" impacts the coal terminal would have on the environment.

Lauren Goldberg, staff attorney for Columbia Riverkeeper, spoke about the report.

"It lays out in great detail these significant impacts, and over and over again points out that many of them can't be mitigated," Goldberg says.

The report notes that the terminal would cause an increase in rail traffic in cities such as Vancouver and Spokane as coal travels in, and without improvements to rail lines, would increase the risk of accidents by 22 percent.

It also says the new terminal would increase noise significantly, disproportionately affecting low-income and minority populations near the proposed site.

The terminal, at full strength, is proposed to ship 44 million tons of coal each year from Montana, Wyoming and Utah to overseas markets, making it the largest coal terminal in the country.

Supporters say the terminal will bring much-needed jobs to the area.

However, Goldberg says the report proves some concerns local business owners have about the project.

"This report validates many of the local people in Longview who have spoken up against the project," she says. "Many of their concerns about what it would mean to their local businesses, existing businesses that are providing good jobs."

There are also concerns about financial support for the terminal. A minority shareholder in the project, Arch Coal, went bankrupt earlier this year.

The public can comment on the study and the proposed terminal through June 13.

Public meetings will be held in Cowlitz County on May 24, Spokane on May 26, and Pasco on June 2.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA