About a thousand people turned out for six hours of public testimony on the Longview coal export project on Wednesday.
Project developer Millennium Bulk Terminals has proposed to export up to 44 million tons of coal from Wyoming and Montana to Asia through a terminal site in Longview, Wash.
Washington Department of Ecology and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are considering which environmental impacts they will consider in the permitting process for the project. For example, will they look at the impacts of train traffic along the entire transit route from coal mines in Wyoming and Montana to the terminal in Longview? Will they consider the contributions of that coal to climate change when it’s burned in power plants overseas? Or will they limit the review to impacts at the project site?
Supporters of the project at the hearing urged the agencies to limit the scope of their reviews while opponents asked for a full review of all environmental impacts from the mines to power plants in Asia.
Jeff Washburn of the Longview Kelso Building and Construction Trades Council said he wants the agencies to look at the impacts of train traffic and coal dust in the Longview community but “to try not to take the total global approach” that would consider every impact along the entire transit route.
“I think that would affect too many other things down the road and pretty much stop any development in the state of Washington,” he said.
But opponents of the project said they want the agencies to look at the health impacts of transporting all that coal through other communities.
Carly Mitchell lives in Camas, Wash., and her grandparents live near the railroad tracks the Millennium project would use to transport coal to Longview. She said she wants the agencies to look at the impacts to people living in towns like hers.
“I’m going to tell them to consider all the communities along the railroad – not just Longview where the terminal is proposed to be built. All the communities, including Camas, where we live,” Mitchell said.
Coal export supporters and opponents organized their own rallies during a break in the hearing.
Washburn spoke to a group of supporters wearing blue shirts and toting blue signs along with Ken Miller, president and CEO of Millennium, State Rep. Liz Pike and Brock Nelson of Union Pacific Railroad.
They said the Millennium project would invest more than $600 million in the community and create more than 2,600 jobs overall. The terminal itself would create 135 permanent jobs, according to Millennium.
Marshall spoke at a rally for project opponents, who wore red shirts and waved red signs along with Pastor John Boonstra of White Salmon, Wash., Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart and Clark County pediatric nurse Alona Steinke.
Previous hearings on the project were held in Longview, Spokane and Pasco in September and earlier this month. The final hearing will be held in Tacoma on Oct. 17. About 1,300 people attended the hearing in Longview. Washington Ecology and the Corps have collected 14,700 comments on the project so far.
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