wrdforwrd

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PNW coal export scoping to include GHG impacts in Asia

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Photo by Paul K. AndersonThe coal industry’s plan to move millions of tons of coal through Pacific Northwest terminals to China and other Asian markets took a serious hit when Washington regulators said environmental impact reviews must consider the worldwide impact of burning the export coal in China.

A major battle surrounding the various export terminal proposals has centered on the “scope” of the environmental review process, such as whether the impact review would be limited to local port and terminal areas in the PNW region.

That question was answered in late July when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and Whatcom County announced the scope of their joint Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point, in northwest Washington State. (If built, it will be the largest coal export terminal in North America, exporting up to 48 million metric tons of coal per year to Asia. The proponents of the terminal include Peabody Energy, SSA Marine, and Goldman Sachs.)

In a major victory for opponents of the export proposals, the scope of the environmental review will be broad, including: human health impacts from coal dust around the Cherry Point terminal and in communities along the entire rail line, marine traffic impacts, rail traffic impacts, greenhouse gas emissions from burning the exported coal in Asia, and cumulative impacts from the second proposed terminal in the state, the Millennium Bulk Terminal in Longview, WA.

Can you say precedent-setting? Especially the part about impacts of GHG emissions from burning the exported coal in Asia? It raises the bar on passing environmental muster to a new, much more difficult, and perhaps impossible, level for export terminal supporters.

“Washington state has set a new precedent that could potentially interfere with international commerce laws protecting rail and trade and discourage new business investment in the state,” was the lame and predictable response in a statement issued by the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports, a business group.

“This scope is a reflection of Northwest values – the depth and breadth of the scope is absolutely on target and appropriate given the impacts this project would have on our way of life,” said Cesia Kearns, campaign director for the Power Past Coal campaign, a coalition of hundreds of businesses, health experts, community organizations and environmental and faith groups.

Cherry Point is one of three remaining coal export proposals in Washington and Oregon; three other proposals were scrapped over the past year. However, If those three terminals are built it would still mean that up to 100 million metric tons of coal exported every year, and up to 40 trains per day traveling through many rail-line communities such as Missoula, MT and Spokane, WA.

Is the PNW coal export falling apart? Well it should and the EIS scoping decision could be a nail in the coffin, but there is still a long way to go, three remaining terminal proposals, a desperate and well-heeled coal industry, and a lengthy review process ahead that will last throughout 2014.

But here’s an interesting factoid about the Cherry Point proposal: last month Goldman Sachs, a Cherry Point proponent, now says coal export terminals are a bad investment. Oops!

Image: SafcoFieldCoaltrain by Paul K. Anderson via Power Past Coal

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Written by William DiBenedetto

3 September, 2013 at 5:00 am

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  1. […] The coal industry’s plan to move millions of tons of coal through Pacific Northwest terminals to China and other Asian markets took a serious hit when Washington regulators said environmental impact reviews must consider the worldwide impact of burning the export coal in China. A major battle surrounding the various export terminal proposals has centered […] wrdforwrd Read Original Post […]


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