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Natural Resources & Energy

Coal export facilities in Washington State to get broad environmental evaluation


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and Whatcom County have announced that their joint Environmental Impact Statement for a proposed coal export facility in Washington State will include a broad analysis. The proposed Cherry Point terminal would be able to export 48 million tons of coal each year, mostly of Powder River Basin coal going to Asia. The Army Corps previously said its EIS would only evaluate environmental impacts to the area where the port would be located, but Washington Environmental Council Spokeswoman Kerry McHugh says the state environmental agency and the county will do a study that evaluates larger-scale impacts.

“Because there are three co-leads the Army Corps isn’t looking at a lot of the impacts through NEPA, which is the National Environmental Policy Act. Instead, the Washington State Department of Ecology is using SEPA, which is our State Environmental Policy Act to look at those,” McHugh says.   

The EIS will now go beyond Washington’s borders.

“It’s going to take a broad look at the impacts from human health impact from coal dust, to marine traffic impacts, which is important to us on the Salish Sea, rail traffic impact not only in Washington but also through Idaho and Montana. And they’re also going to take a look at the cumulative impacts because there’s more than one coal proposal in Washington State right now,” McHugh says.

Port supporters say the decision could set a bad precedent for international commerce and discourage economic development in the state.

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