The Cowlitz Indian Tribe has stepped up its opposition to a proposed coal terminal in Longview, Washington, saying state and federal officials have underestimated the environmental risks of the project and ignored the tribe’s requests for consultation.
Cowlitz Chairman Bill Iyall, on a call with reporters Friday, said plans to export 44 million metric tons of coal through a terminal in Longview threaten the tribe’s culture and homeland.
“Since time immemorial we’ve relied on the once bountiful resources for survival,” Iyall said.
He said the Millennium Bulk Terminals project “represents a massive movement of fossil fuels across the landscape through sensitive environments, impacting animals, fish, plant life.”
The Longview coal terminal must undergo a federal environmental review by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and a state review by the Washington Department of Ecology. It received a draft environmental impact statement that many considered favorable.
Iyall said the Cowlitz consider that review to be incomplete, saying it does not fully address the negative effects on threatened Columbian White-Tailed deer habitat or the increased risks of juvenile salmon deaths associated with wave action or dredging.
“The draft EIS consistently understates, misrepresents and simply does not have relevant significant information,” Iyall said.
Iyall said the Cowlitz have made requests to consult with state and federal officials about the coal terminal on a government-to-government basis, which have been ignored. The tribe filed written public comments in June outlining concerns about the terminal and the environmental impact statement.
David Bennett, a spokesman for Washington’s Department of Ecology, said the department has met with tribal leaders and will continue to seek Cowlitz input.
He noted that the draft environmental impact statement makes clear that the coal terminal’s varied impacts on tribal lands and culture could be reduced, but not eliminated.
“Trains related to the proposal could restrict access. Vessels related to the proposal could affect fish habitat,” Bennett said. “We understand the tribe’s concerns, and in the final environmental impact statement those will be fully addressed.”
Public hearings on the coal terminal begin in Longview on Monday.
Millennium Bulk Terminals in Longview is the last standing of six proposed coal export projects in Oregon and Washington. Washington's Yakama and Lummi tribes each played significant roles in government decisions to deny permits for coal terminals on the Columbia River and Puget Sound.
In both cases, the tribes cited a violation of treaty fishing rights. Because the Cowlitz’s lands were taken by presidential proclamation and without a treaty, the tribe cannot claim treaty fishing rights.
Tribes across the country have been opposing fossil fuel projects. Earlier this month, several Northwest tribes sent supplies as a show of support for those protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in the Midwest. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has been fighting plans for that oil pipeline since last spring.