County Officials Protest Over-Reaching State Coal Exports Review (The Daily News)
County commissioners rebuke Ecology official over state coal review
Cowlitz County officials say the state may be putting the county in economic jeopardy by requiring excessive environmental review of the Millennium Bulk Terminals’ coal export project.
The county commissioners blistered a representative of the state Department of Ecology about the matter at a hearing earlier this week.
“We have competitors all around the globe who just open up shop” without needing multi-year, multi-million dollar environmental impact studies, Commissioner Jim Misner said.
At the Tuesday hearing, the commissioners were asked to approve an $1.3 million amendment for the Ecology’s review of the Millennium’s proposed terminal west of Longview. The study must include a review of coal dust exposure, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, energy and natural resources and a coal market assessment. The four-year study, already underway, will take at least until 2016 to complete. It was mandated by the administration of Gov. Jay Inslee.
Cowlitz County is a partner in the study.
Millennium wants to ship 44 million tons of coal through Longview each year. Commissioner Dennis Weber said that would represent only about 1 percent of the total Asian coal market. He questioned the need for such in-depth studies. The environmental study will cost $8.6 million and be paid for by Millennium.
“It’s going to cost the applicant (millions) to decide if that less than 1 percent is a significant impact,” Weber said. He noted that courts have warned that studies should focus on the “probable and significant” impacts of projects and not be overly broad.
Diane Butorac, regional planner for Ecology, told the commissioners the broad scope of study is needed to determine what permits must be issued. She said state law allows studies to consider factors beyond the state’s boundaries
“We’re not doing an assessment for business purposes but to see where the coal would be going and in what quantities so we can then determine exactly what you’re asking, what is attributable to the project,” Butorac said.
Butorac said the draft Environmental Impact Statement should be ready for public review by the end of 2015.
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