Train traffic congestion and railroad noise are two of the major impacts of the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export project in Longview, Washington, according to an environmental review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The agency released its draft environmental impact statement on the project Friday, outlining the potential environmental damage to air, water, fish, wildlife, and communities. The agency will be taking public comments on the review until Nov. 29.
The Millennium project would would export up to 44 million tons of coal a year to Asia, delivering it to Longview by rail from the Rocky Mountain region. At full capacity, it would receive eight mile-long unit trains of coal each day, and send out 70 ocean-going vessels per month. The company plans to complete construction by 2024.
In a 3,000-page review, the Corps found the project would increase wait times for car traffic at rail crossings and elevate noise levels – especially in low-income and minority communities.
The terminal would directly impact 24 acres of wetlands and 50 acres of wildlife habitat, the agency reports, as well as raising the risk of coal dust pollution and coal spills into waterways. However, the agency does not expect coal pollution from the project to result in measurable concentrations of toxic chemicals in the Columbia River.
The terminal would also generate positive economic impacts through job creation and tax revenue, the report concludes.
The Corps lists dozens of recommendations for offsetting the negative impacts of the project, including improvements to roadways and railroad crossings, adding quiet zones and "quiet crossings" in the Longview area, conducting a noise study, controlling coal dust, adding spill response kits to the project site and developing a coal spill containment and cleanup plan.
In a statement, Millennium Bulk Terminals CEO Bill Chapman said his company plans to meet all the state and federal environmental requirements and move forward with construction.
“Millennium Bulk Terminals is the right project in the right location to meet the increasing Asian demand for better quality American coals,” he said. “Our project has been subjected to an unprecedented and rigorous environmental review process, further assuring that our commitment to exemplary environmental performance will be kept.”
Columbia Riverkeeper Executive Director Brett VandenHeuvel, who opposes the project, said the Corps’ review comes up short – especially compared with the state’s environmental review.
“We’re disappointed by the very narrow and inadequate review by the Corps,” he said. “They drew a box around the project site itself in Longview and didn’t look at the eight coal trains a day that would be spewing dust while traveling through hundreds of other communities. They didn’t look at the greenhouse gas impacts of burning coal. They pretended the coal isn't going to be burned, and of course that's why they're proposing to ship it to Asia."
The Army Corps will be taking comments on its review through Nov. 29. The agency will hold two hearings to take public comments on Oct. 24 and 25. The hearing Oct. 24 will run from 1-4 pm and 5-9 pm at the Cowlitz County Regional Conference Center, 1900 7th Ave. in Longview, Washington. The hearing Oct. 25 will run from 1-4 pm and 5-9 pm at the Clark County Event Center, 17402 NE Delfel Road in Ridgefield, Washington.