Coal Export Expansions Hinge on Environmental Reviews (Montana Energy News)
Feds, State Split Over Environmental Review of Exports
Energy exports continue to be a hot issue, with environmentalists continuing to oppose development of new West Coast export terminals to allow greater Montana coal exports to Asian markets.
Development of new port facilities is currently in the environmental review stage, giving opponents and proponents the opportunity to argue the pros and cons of various projects. In August, the State of Washington announced it would undertake an expansive environmental review, wrapping environmental impacts in Montana into its analysis, as well as consdering the impacts on global greenhouse gas emissions.
Critics responded strongly, and on Sept. 6, 2013, the federal Army Corps of Engineers, the agency leading the federal permitting process for the export terminals, announced it would undertake a separate environmental review, rather than collaborate with the State of Washington. Proponents of the coal export facilities suggested the State of Washington had overstepped its authority in outlining the expansive review.
“The Army Corps of Engineers got it right on this EIS. This is a major project, and they’re going to thoroughly look at the potential environmental impacts of constructing the new port at Cherry Point,” said Montana Chamber of Commerce President Webb Brown. “The EIS scope that Washington had announced was very concerning to us—it proposed going outside the boundaries of Washington to look at the impacts of the commodities that would be exported through this facility.That seemed to imply that Montana wasn’t doing its job at protecting the environment. Furthermore, there are a lot of jobs that depend on a new coal export facility being built on the Pacific Coast. We need that new capacity as soon as possible to get these jobs in place.”
The Washington State analysis is expected to take at least two years, while the timeframe for federal review is unclear. Proponents of increased exports say that time is of the essences, due to the signficant economic benefits of accessing global coal markets. For every million short tons of coal exported, approximately 1320 jobs are created in the U.S.
“Completing these projects without delay must remain a priority. Our communities and families who are desperately in need of the thousands of family-wage jobs and millions in revenue this project would create should not be held hostage to bureaucracy,” said Laura Hennessey, spokesperson for the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports.
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